September 30, 2020

IM Film Review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

“Everything will be all right in the end… if it’s not all right then it’s not the end.”

* * *

Gail and I have had the privilege of traveling to India a half dozen times, and I know why people go there seeking enlightenment and guidance for their lives. No matter where you are in the country, the place is intoxicating. Nowhere will one find brighter colors, or more intriguing sounds and smells. Walking onto the streets of India is like entering a kaleidoscope and holding on for dear life while some unseen hand tips it and turns it and shakes it in the face of the sun. Your thoughts and emotions whirl and tumble as a sensory deluge inundates you and washes you away. You can expect to see anything and everything juxtaposed in such extraordinary combinations that your world, if you let it, may escape its “box” completely and cause you to take up entirely new ways of seeing.

Few films have captured this India like the one we saw the other night, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” It tells the story of a group of British retirees who travel to northern India to reside in what was advertised as a luxury hotel where they might inexpensively “outsource” the final seasons of their lives. Instead, they find their new home in a state of disrepair and under the management of a charming but clueless owner who dreams of glory but can’t make the phones work. The characters and acting are delightful (I especially liked Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, and Bill Nighy; and Maggie Smith’s farcical, over-the-top performance is a hoot), but the real center of the film is India herself, and I felt that if somehow they had been able to incorporate scent into this movie, I would have been right there.

The story, of course, is about personal journeys.

There’s the widow striking out on her own after her husband died and left her in debt, the married couple that has grown apart, with divergent views about the trip — one open to adventure, the other bitter that circumstance has driven her so far from familiarity, the man who grew up in India now returning to reconnect with his long lost lover, the two singles still hoping they have some sexual gas in the tank and looking for romantic connections, and the bitter, small-minded, intolerant woman who is only there because she can get the surgery she needs now and at a good price.

The young owner of the hotel, who inherited it from his failure of a father, is also on a journey. He has fled his home and the pressure of trying to live up to the image of his successful brothers and the heavy hand of his controlling mother. She wants him to return to Delhi and do the dutiful, traditional thing, but he has found love in the new India. He just doesn’t have enough faith in himself to say the words to his girlfriend.

They find themselves in a kind of “wilderness,” something with which we are all acquainted. As they explore the strange wonderland of Jaipur, they sort it out and find their paths.

This is a delightful film, funny and touching, with superb performances by some of the best actors of our generation. It is a feel-good movie, an entertainment for sure, but one that reminds us in a winsome way that each season of life involves a journey. Its main “message” — repeated throughout the movie — is: “Everything will be all right in the end… if it’s not all right then it’s not the end.”

How very “Internet Monk” I found that line to be!


The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Directed by John Madden; written by Ol Parker, based on the novel “These Foolish Things,” by Deborah Moggach; director of photography, Ben Davis; edited by Chris Gill; music by Thomas Newman; production design by Alan MacDonald; costumes by Louise Stjernsward; produced by Graham Broadbent and Pete Czernin; released by Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Cast: Judi Dench (Evelyn Greenslade), Bill Nighy (Douglas Ainslie), Penelope Wilton (Jean Ainslie), Dev Patel (Sonny Kapoor), Celia Imrie (Madge Hardcastle), Ronald Pickup (Norman Cousins), Tom Wilkinson (Graham Dashwood), Maggie Smith (Muriel Donnelly) and Tena Desae (Sunaina).


  1. Liz Attwood says

    I saw this film a couple of weeks ago and thought it was beautifully filmed and so charming. I love Sonny’s line as well, “Everything will be all right in the end… if it’s not all right then it’s not the end.”
    I encourage you to see it and just soak in the beauty and mystery of India. I would love to visit there someday.

  2. I debated about this one…or the Avengers a while back. Being a young guy who likes, action, gore, with violence and fighting…guess which one I choose? 😀

    On a more serious note I would like to see this.

    On another note…is it me or do others find this refreshing? No movie reviw that counts how much profanity was used, how many sexual situations existed, and how “safe it is for the family?” Kind of like those Focus on Everyone Else’s Family movie reviews. Or like Crosswalk movie reviews for that matter. Maybe it’s me but I have been having FOF flashbacks these past couple of days. Yesterday I was playing tourist in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. And what should I see opposite from the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania? A new store that opened up called “Whit’s End.” It brought back a lot of memories of listening to that cheesy radio show.

    But seriously…I would like to see this some time!

    • FoF and some others in the evangelical circus want only sanitized moralistic tales. It’s part of why much of Christian filmmaking and storytelling is so bland and meaningless.

    • That stuff is helpful when you have kids. And Especially when showing movies to youth groups.

    • My kids, who grew up overseas, on a diet of Homer, had a hard time figuring out what adventures in Odyssey their American friends were talking about. Give me Scylla and Charybdis anytime over Wonder bread and sentiment.

    • Ah…..Adventures In Odyssey… the fundagelical equivilent to Axis Sally or Tokyo Rose? Propaganda for the endless culture war….

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Yesterday I was playing tourist in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. And what should I see opposite from the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania?

      Other than the Strasburg RR?

  3. Saw this movie this past weekend and agree completely. It’s beautifully done, poignant and humorous. The characters real, fallible human beings seeking and finding their way on life’s journey, but nothing is predictable. I recommend it highly.

    • Adrienne says

      I saw the movie last week and I agree with your post. It was real, funny, poignant and the acting was awesome. A touch of sadness as characters tried to “find their way” as growing older scared the daylights out of them. I especially appreciated Norman’s honesty when he was trying to “pick up” the woman at the bar. He stopped in the middle of his “approach” and said could they start over and put down the facade of sophistication. He reintroduced himself by simply saying, ” Hello. I’m Norman and I’m lonely.” Beautiful.

  4. This looks like a movie my grandma would like.

  5. I saw this movie a week or so ago, too. Loved it! We laughed, cried, sighed, and smiled. It’s a wonderful movie and I thought meaningful. You take what life gives you and you go with it. I have been recommending to everyone I know!

  6. Kerri in AK says

    I saw this back in February in the local cinema in Dorchester, England. On a Monday afternoon, the show was sold out and the group I was with (which included two Franciscan monks) ended up sitting in the front two rows. Having lived in England for a couple of years, I was quite pleased that I got all the “Britishisms” and was able to enjoy the film with everyone else.

    Such a gentle film! I’d show this to any audience except for maybe the youngest among us. The power of love is a wonder to behold. I now have a friend recently moved to Mumbai so perhaps I should go visit him???

  7. Thanks for the reviews. Films (good films) are a wonderful art form. We host a film club and I hope to view this one later this year. Some other beautiful and provocative movies we’ve seen of late are: The Tree of Life, Melancholia, The Tin Drum and next Midtnight in Paris.

    Never been to India yet, but Pakistan a few times and Nepal and like you said, I love the total immersion of the senses in those cultures.

    • Mike…one movie I thought we’d be discussing and one to put down on your list is the movie “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” I saw it by chance and was blown away by how heavy the movie dealt with pain and suffering. It really goes into the issue of theodicy quite well. These were some of the things I saw in the movie that really helped me with the problem of evil.

      1. Every generation deals with pain and suffering. Max Von Synow’s charachter really shows what happens to a person if they remain stuck in that sufering.
      2. Thomas (the 10 year old kid) learns in the process of trying to figure out why he lost his Dad in 9-11, that many, many people in the world are hurting and in pain.

      When I left that film and thought about it I wondered if I may have come closer to answering the problem of evil. First maybe realize that there is no answer for the problem of evil. And then realize that many people in the world are suffering. Somehow…for osme strange reason there can be comfort in knowing you are not alone when dealing with pain and suffering. That’s one of my beef’s with evangelicalism is that people don’t share or discuss their difficulty and you have this feeling of “why is it just me?” Compounded by people telling you to “read your Bible more, and remember that God is good!!”

      • > That’s one of my beef’s with evangelicalism is that people don’t share or
        > discuss their difficulty and you have this feeling of “why is it just me?”

        There is certainly that; or it goes to the other extreme of ‘baring all’ with hearts on shirt sleeves. Both are dreadful.

        But I wonder if this is really isolated to Evangelicalism. I see this all over; U.S.A. society generally doesn’t make much room for grief, despair, loss, or defeat. It is just “get over it”, “move on,”, and people who just can’t are left behind – too bad for them [obviously they are weak]. It is always hurtling toward the next thing; regardless if that is the hip new approach to the gospel or the next generation iPhone.

  8. Arthur Pepper says

    My wife and I loved this movie. Our suggestion is not to allow anyone under 55 to see it! Young people just wouldn’t see any point in it.

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  10. Charlotte Barrett says

    Excellent review! This movie was wonderful. The cast was stellar. For anyone who’s fascinated by India, as I am, this is a must-see; two of my VERY favorite novels are about the culture of India, “Random Placement” by Lindsay McFerrin Bates (about the secretive Jogini culture of abuse of Untouchable girls) and “A Suitable Boy” by Vikram Seth (about the tradition of arranged marriage.) Will continue to seek out India movies and books!