“Everything will be alright in the end. And if everything is not alright, it is not yet the end,” ensures Dev Patel as the exuberant young manager of the titular hotel in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. There must be a kernel of truth there, because this movie was not alright, and I consequently felt like it would never end.
Not that the premise of senior citizens and their problems can't be made interesting, but one can only cram so many of them into one movie without it becoming disorienting and spread thin. We're introduced to eight, count 'em, eight beleaguered old fogies (mostly well played by a who's-who of British talent) to try and keep track of at the beginning of the film, and it isn't long before they converge in India to live out their autumn years at a luxury hotel that looked a lot more promising in the brochure. We know that resolutions to their varied troubles will come, but these story lines are so many in number that by the end we feel like we haven't truly gotten to know, or care, about any of them. A more central plot with peripheral subplots could have helped this narrative become a carefully constructed mosaic, rather than a mash of jigsaw puzzle pieces that don't fit together. My vote would have gone to Tom Wilkinson, which steals best-in-show honours from his distinguished cast, as the best option for an anchoring character arc. Dames Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, and the always reliable Bill Nighy deliver satisfying moments to boot, but a lot of the other drama is overstated, while the comedy is treading water throughout.
The chapters of plot are sewn together by location photography of India that plays like spottily edited tourism videos, and Thomas Newman's musical choices are incongruous, but I'll grant him that it's hard to keep up musically with scenes that make such sudden tonal shifts at such awkward moments.
** out of ****