John Madden's "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is not just the surprise of the warm weather movie season, it's the most entertaining picture I've seen in 2012.
And why not? It's chock full of splendid older actors (Judy Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imre and Ronald Pickup) and a sterling screenwriter, Ole Parker from Deborah Maggach's novel.
To its everlasting credit, the cinematography in this move about a group of English old people moving to India for a variety of reasons, owes nothing at all to MTV. Not a frame. It is shot intelligently, lovingly and with the story--and not the cinematographer's ego--in mind. Gritty, colorful, noisy, splendid India is on full display and the story has the right feel.
This group of seven people who've moved out of the workforce and into a broken down--read: cheap--ancient hotel in India, one being renovated by an enthusiastic young India. They are thrown together in an accidental group, one that knows nothing of their backgrounds, so they have little in common at the start, save for their advancing age. This is a movie based on story and character, one that will stick to your ribs, make you smile and cry, cringe get angry. It will not leave you with nothing.
The characters are full, rich and definitive in this ensemble case that features a case full of Academy Awards. Perhaps the best performance of this fine group is that of Penelope Wilton, the wife of a man who seems to have lost their life savings and who is simply miserable with her circumstance, with anything Indian, with the hotel, the heat, being far from England, all of it. And she makes everybody around her equally miserable.
Strongly recommended. Unless you're under 40. You have plenty of alternate choices if you're not old enough.