A chick flick truffle to induce salivation in women moviegoers made weak in the knees by tart, cockney-accented romantic comedy or who find the idea of an elderly Englishman dancing in his shower to the beat of “Le Freak” to be irresistibly hilarious, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a slick but superficial offering sure to satisfy its target audience and annoy everybody else. Full of dry wit, spirited performances, and dramatic scenes that allow for a liberal range of hues of geriatric heart-tuggery, this tale of a gaggle of English geezers who retire to live out the remains of their lives in a ramshackle Indian hotel is a more than adequate vehicle for a strong and colorful ensemble cast that includes veterans Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, and British bulldog Maggie Smith, who resembles Michael Caine in drag.
Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is:
6. Pro-miscegenation and pro-gay. Graham (Wilkinson) has returned to India to see his old Indian lover, Manoj (Rajendra Gupta). As a sensitive gay man, Graham is naturally more desirable to Jean (Wilton) than her heterosexual husband (Nighy). Shameless tramp Madge (Celia Imrie) spends her time trying to meet a rich Indian husband. After a woman mistakenly gets into her bed, Madge, rather than being upset, reflects pleasantly, “That’s the most action I’ve had in weeks” (cf. no. 3).
5. New age. Douglas (Nighy) is impressed with the sense of peace he feels in an Indian temple. Hindi moaning features prominently on the soundtrack. The group disposes of one of its members in a spiritually piquant funeral pyre. The film generally does its best to perpetuate the idea of the East as the place where westerners can most successfully actualize themselves.
4. Anti-marriage/anti-family. Evelyn (Dench), a recently widowed housewife, has been left with debts by her controlling husband, who never communicated with her. The Ainslies (Nighy and Wilton) are both drawn to other people, and their union ends in separation. Hotel proprietor Sonny (Dev Patel) and the woman he loves (Tena Desae) must both oppose their families’ wishes in order to be with each other.
3. Feminist/pro-castration. Evelyn’s mannish haircut is a horror. The viewer is left with the impression that Douglas will become the mincing, tea-serving common law househusband of this former housewife, now a strong and empowered woman in control of her life (cf. no. 6).
2. Globalist. The film depicts business ventures sympathetically and gives a smiling human face to the phenomenon of Third World outsourcing of jobs.
1. Multiculturalist/anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn). “Old habits die easier than we think” and “we must celebrate the changes.” Britain’s Third World influx, this film would have viewers believe, simply means more skilled professionals to serve the public interest. Wheelchair-bound bigot Muriel (Smith) is at first reluctant to be treated by a minority doctor, objecting to immigrants’ “brown faces and black hearts”, but comes to see the error of her ways in the light of Indian kindness. Sonny makes a show of Indian grace and genius with his florid speech and quotation of Shakespeare. The film opens itself to an accusation of insensitivity, however, when Douglas recommends a temple, but jokingly admonishes visitors to “maybe take a clothespin for your nose.”