Last weekend, we saw two very different movies about aging—The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Snow White and the Huntsman. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is considered a “realistic” movie. All of the events featured in the film could have happened, and while all stories involve some contrivance there is no huge suspension of disbelief required to enjoy Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. On the other hand, Snow White and the Huntsman is pure fantasy, and a disturbing one at that.
In today’s post, I’ll cover The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and in the next one I’ll write about Snow White and the Huntsman. Now, I’m not sure it’s accurate to state that Snow White is a British film as the two leading actors are American. However, the director originally comes from Great Britain, it was filmed in Wales and Ireland, and many of the actors—notably the seven dwarfs—are British. So I’m calling it a British film.
And, in keeping with the spirit of England, I’ll conclude with a recipe for fish with parsley sauce, which I made on Sunday. It’s one I’ve refined over the year, and Clif deemed this version “company good.”
Best Exotic Marigold Hotel includes a dazzling cast of some of England’s finest albeit aging actors—Judi Dench, who can do anything; Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, and Penelope Wilton. The story explores a subject that is a major concern for many people and is only going to get larger in the upcoming years. That is, as people age, how do they make good lives for themselves, lives that are full and meaningful rather than ones that are filled with loneliness and boredom? Especially when they live on limited incomes and have flats so small that they can be cleaned in a half-hour. What to do with the rest of one’s time?
In Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the main charters set out for India. They have been lured by a brochure that only has a vague connection with the truth—there is a Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but let’s just say that it’s somewhat shabbier in reality than in how it’s presented in the brochure. As Muriel, Maggie Smith’s character, indignantly observes: “The hotel in that brochure was photo-shopped.”
Yes, it was. Unlike the gleaming hotel that was advertised, the real one is dirty and falling apart. One of the rooms doesn’t have a door, which leads to a comical situation. However, the hotel is the way it is not because of malice or laziness but rather because the young owner, Sonny Kapoor, played extremely energetically by Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire, has no money for its upkeep. However, Sonny really does yearn to run a beautiful, refurbished hotel, and it is this sincerity, at least in part, that keeps the travelers at his hotel. (Also, there is really nothing for them back home in England, and most of them don’t have enough money to move elsewhere.)
All the travelers have come to India for various reasons, and in the course of the movie, they find their footing and have small but meaningful epiphanies brought on by the astonishing vitality of Indian life. Some of the transformations are more believable than others, but the movie is so beautifully and movingly acted that I was was willing to overlook this and can without hesitation recommend Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is probably not a young people’s movie. However, it certainly resonates with the over-50s crowd. I went to see it at Railroad Square Cinema, a small art cinema in Waterville, Maine, and the house was packed, but let’s just say there was a predominance of wrinkles and gray hair in the audience. According to the staff at Railroad Square, almost every showing has been packed, and on the night we went, the audience applauded when the film was done.
In the upcoming years, there are going to be many old people, too many to ignore. While not all of us can or indeed should go to India to find our footing, we really do need to give some thought as to how we are going to live the last part of lives. Best Exotic Marigold Hotel chronicles this exploration and leaves viewers with a sense of hope. Perhaps the movie will encourage viewers to have little epiphanies in their own communities, where they can remain active, vital, useful, and connected for as long as possible.