In the movie Gandhi, the titular character was asked “You don’t think we’re just going to walk out of India” and Gandhi replied, “Yes, in the end, you will walk out”. And the British did. But now, according to the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the British are walking back in. And perhaps now India will get its comeuppance for having the temerity to ask their empire builders to leave in the first place.
There is something kind of cute when it comes to the core idea of …Marigold Hotel. Our jobs have been outsourced. Now we’re going to get revenge for it: we’re going to outsource one of our biggest and most unpleasant industries: our old people. In this pleasant and entertaining, but little more, comedy from writer Ol Parker and director John, Shakespeare in Love, Madden, a group of England’s most respected thespians pack their bags and leave the country and foist themselves upon the unsuspecting Indians when they fall for the equivalent of swamp land in Florida: a photo shopped hotel that has been opened by that refugee from Skins and Slumdog Millionaire, Dev Patel, to especially cater to their specialized needs. And with no takesy backsies.
But this outsourcing isn’t even the biggest irony here. No. When the British were asked to leave, the Indians claimed they’d be able to take care of themselves and would be responsible for their own problems. But nearly seventy years later, according to Parker, they are now no better off than when the English were there. So it is left to this group of patronizing patrons to teach the local yokels how to manage their love lives; stand up to their parents; treat the disenfranchised; and run a hotel. Yes, the British are not only back, their back in their old roles of telling the people they once ruled how to rule their country.
Okay, I’m taking a film that is not all that serious a bit too seriously. Because in the end, …Marigold Hotel is a fun movie. Not because it is about a group of people discovering the wonders of India and how it brings new meaning to their lives (which I don’t think the movie remotely does), but because it gives us the great honor of watching a group of incredibly talented actors strut their stuff. And do they strut it. There’s nary a false note here. Everyone–Tom Wilkinson as a gay judge; Judi Dench, as a widow who has never had to take care of herself; Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton (together again as husband and wife from Shawn of the Dead) as a couple whose relationship is on its last legs; and Ronald Pickup (an appropriate name for his role) and Celia Imrie as two birds of a feather, people looking for sex, love and/or money in a relationship, not necessarily in that order—are first rate here. But it has to be said that as good as everyone is, it’s Maggie Smith, as a racist cockney housekeeper/nanny, who is magnificent. No, I mean, she is really magnificent. I mean, did I happen to mention how magnificent she was? Well, if I didn’t, I have to say it, Maggie Smith is magnificent.
Perhaps Hollywood actors need to take a lesson from the story here. England had no use for these senior citizens, so they gladly shipped them off to the Far East (out of sight, out of mind). Older actors have found that L.A. has no use for them, so maybe they should start outsourcing themselves to England where maybe they could get work doing such movies as Harry Potter (I mean, you had to be a pretty poor actor not to get a part in those films somewhere along the line), Downton Abbey and the recently released Quartet (which would make more than a suitable companion piece to …Marigold Hotel). The parts they’d get certainly couldn’t get any worse than The Bucket List.