With “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” director John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love”) and screenwriter Ol Parker pack a mixed bag for a trip to India with some of England’s best older actors.
Based on a novel by Deborah Moggach, the comedy-drama cast includes Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson and Maggie Smith. All play British seniors who, for a variety of personal reasons, take a golden-years voyage to the eponymous hotel.
It’s little surprise when the hotel and its passionate but overwhelmed young proprietor Sonny (Dev Patel, who’s way out of his league here) don’t live up to the glossy brochures that lured the guests. Other developments, especially those involving Sonny’s storyline, are equally easy to spot and exist solely to rustle up dramatic conflict.
Yet there are a few charming surprises, there’s wisdom and sensitivity in the handling of some of the less pleasant realities of aging, and the veteran cast members are consistently pleasurable to watch.
Particular credit goes to Dench and Wilkinson, the film’s strongest sources of warmth and vitality, and Nighy, a refreshing breath of desert-dry air in a sea of sweet, sometimes cloying sentiment.