Monday, 26 March 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, John Madden, UK 2011

John Madden's latest offering pretty much offers what one would expect from the director who gave us Shakespeare In Love, Captain Corelli's Mandolin and Mrs. Brown. My own personal favourite of the lot is the latter, though Mrs. Brown may be slightly atypical for a John Madden flick inasmuch as it's less upbeat than, say, Shakespeare in Love, to say nothing of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which is the ultimate upbeat, feel-good movie experience if there ever was one!

A motley bunch of British retirees from various walks of life but with one thing in common - a lack of funds - gather at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for that very reason: a dearth of the necessary funds to retire in dignity in their home country makes them opt for India instead. Their adjustment to their new home - or the refusal thereof - varies depending on their background. Judi Dench's Evelyn, whose late husband squandered away their money, a fact she only learns about once he's left for the eternal hunting grounds, adjusts more easily than the rest of the lot and seems a great deal more open to the pleasures and possibilities - as well as the pitfalls - of their new surroundings. Running a blog, which she originally started as a means to keep in touch with her family back in the UK, it is mainly through Evelyn's eyes - and words - that we, the viewers, get the run-down of the India experience of her and her fellow retirees first hand. It is also Evelyn, who, with her sometimes wise, sometimes utterly banal, blog entries, keeps the movie at its upbeat, feel-good pitch. Therefore, Dench is the one to provide the smiles.

However, it is Maggie Smith who provides the laughs. And uproarious ones at that! As the one who's most reluctant to leave her beloved England with all its biscuits and builder's tea behind, she's at her most uproarious, politically incorrect, hilarious, best! Her lines simply had me in stitches! To be perfectly honest, a movie this frothy and - dare I say it - at times, syrupy - would have benefited a great deal had there been more of Smith. And I'm not just saying it because I'm probably her biggest fan. No, it's just that she's the spice - the red hot chilli - in a dish that's otherwise a little too sweet for my liking. But hey, I admit that if I was able to make a wish, I'd like a DVD with all of Maggie Smith's scenes from California Suite, Gosford Park, A Private Function, Sister Act, and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, cut in a row! Why, it would mean hours and hours of sheer endless laughter and first-class amusement by the world's prime comedienne, or how I choose to refer to her - the Goddess of Camp!