The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Fri, Feb 24, 2012, 00:00

Directed by John Madden. Starring Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Dev Patel, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, Tom Wilkinson 12A cert, general release, 124 min

NOT TOO far into The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,there’s a moment when retiring civil servants Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton glumly survey a new granny flat, one of only a few remaining options for a couple on pinched pensions. “It’s the best you’ll get for your grey pound,” suggests the estate agent, unhelpfully.

Well, John Madden’s film is one to talk about exploiting the grey pound. Add up all the down-the- back magazine ads for stair-chairs and varicose vein-reducing contraptions and they still don’t cry out for sexagenarian booty quite like this sunny pensioner fantasy does. Mattress savings, ahoy.

We shouldn’t complain too much. The over-19s represent a much neglected demographic in the movieverse. It’s good that somebody’s catering for older viewers. It’s just a shame that there is a fair bit of shoddy moviemaking and writing attached: Best Exotic’s characters are one-and-a-half dimensional at best, the plotting is haphazard, and one scene depicting a relayed conversation up and down stairwell would get you flunked out of most film schools.

Happily, being ramshackle is all part of the charm. Like the titular Indian vacation spot, the movie asks the viewer to make do with good company and great Indian scenery and just ignore the rougher edges. It’s a smart move.

The crew are old hands and mostly good fun. Tom Wilkinson is a retiring high court judge with a secret; Judi Dench is a widow determined to strike out on her own; Nighy is the sad-sack husband to Wilton’s snob; Celia Imrie is the obligatory randy granny; and Maggie Smith’s Hob Nob-smuggling medical tourist is a racist and a battleaxe (“I want an English doctor”).

Before you can say Carry On Abroad,this oddball crew have descended on a crumbling dump operated by Slumdog Millionaire’s Dev Patel. Mean visitors duly become less mean and nice visitors get even nicer.

And, yes. They do descend to spicy lavatory jokes. If it’s an older person’s movie you have to have older jokes, right?