Late Life Lushness: 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'

A film catered to meet the simple comforts that delivers joy with fantastic ease.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Director: John Madden
Cast: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Dev Patel
Distributor: Fox
Rated: PG-13
Release date: 2012-09-18

Anyone coming to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel will know before checking in that this is a film carefully designed to meet and satisfy its audiences’ demand for simple pleasures. From the opening credits forward, we silently declare ourselves to be on holiday and seek without effort to relax and be entertained. The film is made for comfort and delivers it with fantastic ease.

For Anglophile moviegoers there is something particularly irresistible in stories of graying Britons who set out with equal mix exuberance and reluctance for a holiday in the sun. We watch and relish as the bright climate and warm air relaxes the fabric of their overly constricted selves. The itinerary may be little changed from other excursions, but we gladly take the journey all the same, in part because there are comparatively few films out there for grown up viewers.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel begins in England with succinct but detailed introductions of its seven main characters. Individually they are all at crossroads in their lives and no longer have the time, money, energy or health to ignore the critical moment at hand.

Recently widowed Evelyn (Judi Dench) is forced to sell her London home to pay off her late husband’s debt. Resolute with a self-possessed optimism, she refuses her son’s invitation to move in with his family. Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Jean (Penelope Wilton), a querulous couple, sank their life savings into their daughter’s failed Internet start-up and now face a starkly different retirement than either had imagined. After a long and distinguished career Graham Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson) is retiring as a High Court Judge and desires to re-visit India, where he lived as a child.

Proud and cantankerous Muriel (Maggie Smith) is a long-serving housekeeper unceremoniously replaced by her employers who feel someone younger better services their domestic needs. Muriel’s frail health places her in urgent need of a hip replacement. With the prohibitive expense and long wait in England, she is urged by her doctors to go abroad for the surgery. Rounding out the ensemble are Madge (Celia Imrie), a frisky divorcee who shutters at the thought of taking on the role of stay-at-home grandmother, and Norman (Ronald Pickup), a randy old man whose ageing body cannot keep pace with his sexual appetite for younger women.

England and its overcast shores are soon replaced by the rich colors and symphonic chaos of Jaipur, India. Each traveler has been lured to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which promises to be a “luxury development for residents in their golden years.” That the reality does not quite live up to the brochure is to be expected.

Upon arrival each guest is welcomed with effusive charm by Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel), the hotel’s young but outmatched proprietor. Having inherited the once grand hotel from his father, Sonny cannot quite balance his entrepreneurial exuberance with the realities of renovating a long neglected property. The hotel has rooms without doors and no working telephones but Sonny sees only the possibility of what his dream can build. His guests and domineering mother, however, are not quite as accommodating.

Adapted by Ol Parker (from Deborah Moggach’s novel, These Foolish Things) and directed by John Madden (Mrs. Brown, Shakespeare in Love) the film neatly interweaves the character’s disparate storylines into a satisfying whole. As moviegoers we have traveled here before and soaked under the more sumptuous sun of Spain’s Costa del Sol and Italy’s Mediterranean coast. This is an incredibly safe movie that never thinks to venture too far outside the gates of its establishment. Even though The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is knowingly predictable this does not detract from the movie’s immense charm or its ability to enchant.

The film is kept alive by mild surprises, genuine wit and the unrivaled skill of its talented cast. Quite simply the only reason to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is for the opportunity to witness on screen the stellar genius of actors whose immense talent can elevate the banal to the utterly luxuriant. Only actors of the highest quality could transform such an ordinary tale into a film that captivates with a slow exhibition of layered authenticity.

This is a feel good film and, yes, its message is simple and nothing more than one is never too old to break free and live! However, to dismiss such sentiment with easy cynicism is to risk never experiencing the joy of seeing (and feeling) the horizon of life expand before your eyes.

Editor's Note: It is PopMatters policy to provide readers with information on extras provided with a DVD; however, our writer did not receive the full DVD for this review -- only a mere screener.


In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

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The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Nonetheless, there are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. There are singers tackling deep, universal matters of the heart and mind. Artists continuing to mess around with a genre that can sometimes seem fixed, but never really is. Musicians and singers have been experimenting within the genre forever, and continue to. As Charlie Worsham sings, "let's try something new / for old time's sake." - Dave Heaton

10. Lillie Mae – Forever and Then Some (Third Man)

The first two songs on Lillie Mae's debut album are titled "Over the Hill and Through the Woods" and "Honky Tonks and Taverns". The music splits the difference between those settings, or rather bears the marks of both. Growing up in a musical family, playing fiddle in a sibling bluegrass act that once had a country radio hit, Lillie Mae roots her songs in musical traditions without relying on them as a gimmick or costume. The music feels both in touch with the past and very current. Her voice and perspective shine, carrying a singular sort of deep melancholy. This is sad, beautiful music that captures the points of view of people carrying weighty burdens and trying to find home. - Dave Heaton

9. Sunny Sweeney – Trophy (Aunt Daddy)

Sunny Sweeney is on her fourth album; each one has felt like it didn't get the attention it deserved. She's a careful singer and has a capacity for combining humor and likability with old-fashioned portrayal of deep sadness. Beginning in a bar and ending at a cemetery, Trophy projects deep sorrow more thoroughly than her past releases, as good as they were. In between, there are pills, bad ideas, heartbreak, and a clever, true-tearjerker ballad voicing a woman's longing to have children. -- Dave Heaton

8. Kip Moore – Slowheart (MCA Nashville)

The bro-country label never sat easy with Kip Moore. The man who gave us "Somethin' 'Bout a Truck" has spent the last few years trying to distance himself from the beer and tailgate crowd. Mission accomplished on the outstanding Slowheart, an album stuffed with perfectly produced hooks packaged in smoldering, synthy Risky Business guitars and a rugged vocal rasp that sheds most of the drawl from his delivery. Moore sounds determined to help redefine contemporary country music with hard nods toward both classic rock history and contemporary pop flavors. With its swirling guitar textures, meticulously catchy songcraft, and Moore's career-best performances (see the spare album-closing "Guitar Man"), Slowheart raises the bar for every would-be bro out there. -- Steve Leftridge

7. Chris Stapleton – From a Room: Volume 1 (Mercury Nashville)

If Chris Stapleton didn't really exist, we would have to invent him—a burly country singer with hair down to his nipples and a chainsaw of a soul-slinging voice who writes terrific throwback outlaw-indebted country songs and who wholesale rejects modern country trends. Stapleton's recent rise to festival headliner status is one of the biggest country music surprises in recent years, but his fans were relieved this year that his success didn't find him straying from his traditional wheelhouse. The first installment of From a Room once again finds Stapleton singing the hell out of his sturdy original songs. A Willie Nelson cover is not unwelcome either, as he unearths a semi-obscure one. The rest is made up of first-rate tales of commonality: Whether he's singing about hard-hurtin' breakups or resorting to smoking them stems, we've all been there. -- Steve Leftridge

6. Carly Pearce – Every Little Thing (Big Machine)

Many of the exciting young emerging artists in country music these days are women, yet the industry on the whole is still unwelcoming and unforgiving towards them. Look at who's getting the most radio play, for one. Carly Pearce had a radio hit with "Every Little Thing", a heartbreaking ballad about moments in time that in its pace itself tries to stop time. Every Little Thing the album is the sort of debut that deserves full attention. From start to finish it's a thoroughly riveting, rewarding work by a singer with presence and personality. There's a lot of humor, lust, blues, betrayal, beauty and sentimentality, in proper proportions. One of the best songs is a call for a lover to make her "feel something", even if it's anger or hatred. Indeed, the album doesn't shy away from a variety of emotions. Even when she treads into common tropes of mainstream country love songs, there's room for revelations and surprises. – Dave Heaton

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Scholar Judith May Fathallah's work blurs lines between author and ethnographer, fan experiences and genre TV storytelling.

In Fanfiction and the Author: How Fanfic Changes Popular Culture Texts, author Judith May Fathallah investigates the progressive intersections between popular culture and fan studies, expanding scholarly discourse concerning how contemporary blurred lines between texts and audiences result in evolving mediated practices.

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Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

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