Seven retired people travel to India to live at the new Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the elderly and the beautiful. On arrival, they discover it is not a stunning location as advertised but is unready for guests and in serious need of repair.

The main plot of Best Exotic sees unprepared owner Sonny (Dev Patel) fight to save his hotel, struggling to convince investors to inject more cash into his unlikely scheme and persuade his mother to let him marry the ‘modern’ Indian girl he loves. This, somewhat simplistic plot, is not all there is to Best Exotic though, and it is perhaps best characterised as a collection of smaller subplots concerning its hotel’s seven new residents.

Of course, it’s an eclectic bunch: feuding couple Douglas and Jean (Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton); Evelyn (Judie Dench), widow to a husband secretly in debt; antiquated racist Muriel (Maggie Smith) travelling to India for a hip replacement; homosexual Graham (Tom Wilkinson), who has something in his past he needs to atone for; lady’s man Norman (Ronald Pickup); and Madge, in search of her next partner (Celia Imrie).

All of these characters appear to be on a journey of discovery in India, and although this genre is getting a little tired, Best Exotic has a top-class cast who skilfully keep their character’s stories from feeling twee. Nevertheless, there are a few limitations in the script and elements of the plot that are initially unconvincing. Personally, I found it hard to believe, early on, that Muriel, who had such a negative view of other cultures, would travel to India for a hip replacement in the first place. Despite this, the most interesting plots do belong to Maggie smith as Muriel and Tom Wilkinson as Graham. Both do a stellar job injecting light humour with more serious messages. As Sonny, Dev Patel gives us a charming lead character who capably holds the film’s various plot strands together.

This movie is certainly targeted at an older market. Although the screen I went to was nearly full, I have to say that I was one of the youngest there. My experience of Best Exotic was punctuated by a succession of ‘what did he say?’ and ‘I didn’t catch that’, followed by a repetition of the script from the rows behind. But this merely added to the film’s style and believability, and was more than preferable to the high pitched screams and teenage chatter that accompanied Woman In Black for instance.

Judging by the audience’s many, many laughs, Best Exotic did an excellent job of appealing to its target market. I defy any British citizen not recognise at least one of the characters in their own life. I saw at least half the cast in people I know! And so I laughed a great deal too. But probably, the older you are, the more you will love The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

VERDICT:   ✪ ✪ ✪

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