Magazine article The Spectator

Cinema - Golden Oldies

Magazine article The Spectator

Cinema - Golden Oldies

Article excerpt

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

12A, Nationwide

A young Indian entrepreneur, Sonny (Dev Patel), has a brilliant idea: to open a hotel that caters for the 'elderly and beautiful' British tourist. He plans, in other words, to exploit that pot at the end of the service industry rainbow, the 'grey pound'. Sonny fakes some photographs depicting what he hopes his hotel will look like (one day in the future when the building works are done) and prints a brochure that hoodwinks seven gullible pensioners, each in a state of mental and/or physical disrepair, into booking their one-way ticket to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

They arrive - following a journey in which they discover that India is both hot and crowded - to find the hotel of their dreams meeting the health and safety standards of their nightmares. However, since this is not the latest confidence trick to make the front pages of the Daily Mail but the beginning of a romantic comedy, it's not long before the redoubtable seven begin to fall for the charms of India and the funny little ways of their hosts. Soon they are forgetting their fuddy-duddy English habits and trying on colourful scarves, tasting spicy foods and even screaming when their tuk-tuk takes a sharp corner.

Each of these seven characters has a history to divulge and a reason to travel: Douglas and Jean invested their pension in their daughter and her internet start-up; Graham is searching for a person he loved and lost, 40 years ago; Evelyn has been left widowed and crippled by debt; Muriel needs a hip operation (that she can have, courtesy of a pioneer scheme, the moment her flight lands in India); Madge wants to snap up another husband before she turns up her toes, and Norman wants to get his rocks off one last time.

The film sets about making the point that old age needn't mean the final curtain but rather the beginning of a glorious, golden chapter. Each character has wishes and desires for a future, and each has been a victim of the prejudice that the elderly confront, on a daily basis, at home in the UK: at best patronised and accommodated, and at worst ignored and dismissed.

Eh? What's that you say? Elderly? But - hang on a second while I screw my eyeglass in - isn't that Bill Nighy? That snake-hipped jazz hound is more golden ticket than grey pound from where I'm sitting. …

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