Judi Dench plays Evelyn, a grieving widow whose beloved husband left her nothing but debt. A bit naïve, she reflects many women of her generation who lovingly put their future in their husband's hands. It’s no wonder she seems lost without her spouse, especially since her future looks less than rosy. She may even have to get a job -- something she never before needed to do and she’s terrified.
The fabulous Bill Nighy and impressive Penelope Wilton play married couple Douglas and Jean who invested their entire retirement fund into their daughter’s ill-fated business. But it’s not their lack of cash that’s causing their marriage to fall apart, it’s something much deeper. India will either bring them together or send them running in opposite directions.
Tom Wilkinson plays Graham, a man with a dark secret. His reason for retiring to Jaipur isn’t financially motivated, but prompted by a deep desire to reunite with his first love whom he was forced to abandon amidst terrible scandal. As a teen boy, he fell in love with the son of a family servant and both their lives were shattered when they were found out. Graham’s story is as inspiring as it is heartbreaking.
Running the dilapidated retirement hotel is Sonny, played ebulliently by Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire). He has big plans for this retirement home despite his mother’s disdain for him and his “modern” girlfriend Sunaina, played by the gorgeous Tena Desae. Just as the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel residents are reflecting on how they lived their lives, young Sonny is just learning how to live.
Like an homage to Shiva, the Hindu goddess of creation and destruction, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is as much a celebration of life as it is a lament, balancing the light and dark aspects of our lives. Superbly acted, the film is a meditation on marriage, arranged or for love, revealing insights I had never considered.
Bottom line: This film is like a flavorful onion with layers that will bring tears along with laughter and nourishment. Take your parents out for chicken tikka masala then enjoy the film and its groovy Indian music.
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