A delectable comedy-drama that deftly mixes cultures and generations into a savory stew that's a joy to consume, John Madden's The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a delightfully funny and touching movie. With a cast of veteran actors that most films would kill for and exquisite locations in India which ring with authenticity, this is one hotel very much worth checking into.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Blu-ray)
Directed by John Madden
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 124 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, French
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Review Date: October 5, 2012
A disparate group of elderly Londoners find themselves ready to start a new phase of their lives and after reading a brochure for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in Jaipur which caters to the elderly, they all book passage especially since the hotel also pays for their travel expenses there. Newly widowed Evelyn Greenslade (Judi Dench) is on her own for the first time in forty-one years; high judge Graham Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson) abruptly quits his firm to return to the place where he spent his memorable early years; Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Jean (Penelope Wilton) Ainslie can’t afford to live on pensions in England but hope a fresh start in India will mend their lifeless marriage; Madge Hardcastle (Celia Imrie) is on the lookout for rich, available men; her male counterpart Norman Cousins (Ronald Pickup) wants desperately to recapture some of his lost youth; and bigoted Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith) needs a hip replacement but can only afford one performed in India. Greeted by the affable but hopelessly over-his-head proprietor Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel), the Britishers are shocked by their less than luxurious accommodations but are soon off on their own individual adventures.
Ol Parker’s screenplay (based on the novel by Deborah Moggach) is full of predictable characters and situations, but its familiarity doesn’t really matter when in the hands of such a talented cast of star character actors, and the Jaipur location adds color and vivacity to their own discoveries about the country and about themselves. The film is barely long enough to give each of these marvelous talents their own individual stories, and some, like Tom Wilkinson’s Graham and his sad search for a lost love or Bill Nighy’s Douglas and his yearning for Evelyn, could have used more fleshing out to have increased the audience’s emotional responses to their ultimate fates. Even so, the film delivers in spades as director John Madden manages just enough slice-of-life touches to buoy up the screenplay’s expected twists and turns. At first, the younger generation’s subplot (represented by Dev Patel’s Sonny and his sweetheart Sunaina played by Tena Desae) seems trite and uninteresting, but even its banal resolution is rather joyous and fitting in context of the other stories going on around it. Throughout, director Madden instills a joyous sense of discovery about the movie that makes one eager to jump from story to story to see how each is progressing.
How can one single out any of these great actors for individual praise? Yes, Maggie Smith as usual steals every scene she’s given, and her character’s transformation as she finds a purpose for her life is truly the film’s most rewarding story, but that’s not to slight Judi Dench’s no nonsense handling of Evelyn’s first taste of rather terrifying freedom or Penelope Wilton’s continual harangues about the unsightly conditions and the deplorable differences between India and England. The men are wonderful, too, as Tom Wilkinson and Bill Nighy individually find some peace for their lives. Among this celebrated company, Dev Patel might seem a bit overwhelmed at the stars around him, but he gives an ingratiating performance that will likely be much admired.
The film’s 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully reproduced in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. It’s an absolutely scrumptious transfer filled with gorgeous color that’s deeply saturated but never overdone, and contrast that has been dialed in to perfection. Flesh tones look natural and are extremely appealing. There really isn’t anything negative to say about this sterling transfer. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix gives a rich and full aural experience to the listener especially for a film with somewhat small intentions. There are several wonderfully entertaining uses of ambient sounds in the fronts and rears (finding birds flocking and flittering in one of the hotel rooms is a great aural joke), and care has been taken to give the entire soundstage the feel of crowded, busy Indian streets. Dialogue is always easily discernible and is mostly located in the center channel (there’s a bit of directionalized dialogue near the end of the movie).
There are five relatively brief EPK featurettes that serve as the bonus material for the movie. They’re all in 1080p.
“Behind the Story: Lights, Color, and Smiles” features brief interviews with director John Madden, writer Ol Parker, and stars Dev Patel, Bill Nighy, Celia Imrie, and Ronald Pickup about their characters and how they fit into the movie’s story. It runs 2 ½ minutes.
“Casting Legends” allows Dev Patel to enthuse about the living legends in the cast, seconded by director Madden and writer Parker. Judi Dench praises Dev Patel in return and also gives credit to John Madden’s direction in this 4-minute piece.
“Welcome to the Real Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” has stars Judi Dench and Maggie Smith praising production designer Alan Macdonald who took the dilapidated hotel in Jaipur and added touches to make it another character in the movie. This runs 3 minutes.
“Trekking to India” notes that none of the British stars had ever been to India before, so their sense of awe at their new surroundings made getting into character very easy in performing culture shock. This runs 2 ¾ minutes.
“Tuk Tuk Travels” is a brief 1 ½-minute piece where John Madden explains what tuk tuks are: motor scooters with overlarge hassocks on them.
The promo trailers on the disc are for We Bought a Zoo, The Descendents, Margaret¸ and The Three Stooges.
4.5/5 (not an average)
A lovely, life-affirming film that proves it’s never too late for a fresh start in life, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is one of the year’s real movie treasures. The bonus material isn’t very substantial, but the release is redeemed by a reference quality transfer. Highly recommended!