The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Year: 2012
Production Co: Participant Media
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Director: John Madden
Writer: Ol Parker
Cast: Tom Wilkinson, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton, Dev Patel

I understand there was a bit of a backlash against this movie because of a perceived backwards view of the Indian people and their country, a romanticised outlook the way elderly British expats want to see it instead of the way it really is.

And I can understand the criticisms, the way the hotel manager Sonny (Patel) is portrayed as a buffoon, endlessly bowing and scraping and couching every announcement as if it's the best thing that's ever happened, the way everything is wrapped up neatly in a bow for the final few scenes.

If I'd expected something serious and realistic the legitimate criticisms might have got in the way of enjoying it, but it was a romance fantasy from beginning to end as a group of very different UK pensioners travel to Jaipur to find themselves.

They've signed up for a stay at the hotel of the title, presented as a glorious wonderland but in reality a crumbling wreck managed by a hapless young man following his dreams of being a hotelier and having a decent life to offer his beautiful young girlfriend Sunaina.

But after the initial horror at their circumstances, most of them find their groove and get on with whatever life they were there to find.

Some of the character arcs are kind of corny, such as Maggie Smith's crotchety racist Muriel finally accepting her new countrymen, but it all works for two reasons. First, it's heartfelt. Because director Madden and his cast believe every word you will too. Secondly, actors like Wilkinson, Dench, Smith, Nighy and Imrie have so much talent between them they might as well have backed a truck full of Oscars up to the back door of the production office.

It's too endearingly lovely (and at times laugh out loud) funny not to like. And for the quick of eye, that pool surrounding by geometric stairs is indeed Chand Baori, the set of the Middle Eastern prison from The Dark Knight Rises.

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