April 3, 2012

Guest Review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

I am very pleased to be publishing this review from Sue Ann Muller. Sue Ann is an avid reader and moviegoer from Bondi, Australia, who is currently studying with the aim of changing careers and becoming a journalist. Thanks for your contribution Sue!

Don’t wait until you are in your retirement years to see this film. It is funny, witty, and poignant and just happens to be about British retirees down on their luck looking to India to cheaply outsource their golden years.

The retirees travel to the ancient city of Jaipur, India to the charming though dilapidated Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – where the phones don’t work, taps drip all night, and spicy curries are served under the guise of roast goat dinners.

The film is a pared down version of the book These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach, and gives less attention to the lives of the residents prior to their coming to India. Jaipur has replaced the high tech city of Bangalore and troublesome family members are not dealt with at all.

The cast is the best of British acting royalty. Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith play bewildered older women whose lives have left them short of money and options. They rise to the challenge of living in India, “Like Darwin’s finches, we are slowly starting to adapt.” Tom Wilkinson is a retired High Court Judge with a secret past and childhood origins in India.

Bill Nighy steps out of his usual role as the boozy, sleazy older man and instead plays a longsuffering, loyal husband in a marriage that has outrun itself, with a wife who despises India and refuses to accept its quixotic mix of beauty and poverty.

Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) plays the optimistic charmer managing the Marigold – brow beaten by his mother and torn between making a traditional marriage and a love-match.  Sonny has endearingly upbeat solutions to all the problems the Marigold throws at him. “Everything will be all right in the end. So if it is not all right, then it is not yet the end.”

Academy Award nominee Thomas Newman is responsible for a gorgeous soundtrack which is a mix of East meets West using traditional Indian instruments. It evokes the beauty, chaos and timelessness of India. The films cinematography colourfully illustrates the vividness of street life in India – noisy, smelly, exotic and teeming with humanity.

Ultimately the film is fun and uplifting. The hotel guests go to the Marigold to retire cheaply while creating a minimum of fuss but discover that life can never be boring in India and that if you are open to it life will continue to surprise and delight.

I would be very happy to receive your comments and feedback on ‘Book or Big Screen’ – please click on the below link to tell me what film adaptation you are excited about, or to suggest the book/film that I should review next.


  1. Oh, I've been wanting to see this film and your review has only made me more anxious to see it :)
    Have you read the book? I've also been mullin over whether or not I should read it first (or eventually...).

  2. Hi Mariana! No, I haven't read the book yet, which is why I was so happy to receive this guest post from Sue Ann. As soon as I saw the trailer for this film, I knew it would be one that I'd need to feature on my blog. Let me know what you think of the film, once you get the chance to see it.

  3. Hi, I did read the book first but as I said in the review it was very loosely based on the book and I spent a lot of time trying to match up characters that weren't there and fill in the blanks while watching the movie. So in this case I would say don't read the book first. On its own the book is light and funny but there are too many characters to keep up with which is why I think it was pared down for the movie. Hope that helps!