Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012)

"I want to outsource Old Age"

Films with ensemble casts are tricky things. No doubt filling a story with big stars is going to get people to watch it; but as a result, some of the characters can become marginalised and you end up wondering what the point of casting them was. I like Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s 11, it’s slick, stylish, has an intriguing plot, and it has a hell of a cast. There is no doubt however, that it’s George Clooney and Brad Pitt’s film. Crash is another example. Another great cast, but was Sandra Bullock really necessary? Just checking IMDB, I’d forgotten that Brendan Fraser and William Fitchner were in it! Of course one way of fitting in all the characters is to go down the route of Magnolia: make a really long film so that everyone gets enough screen time!

However, in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, it all seems to work. All of the characters get time enough for their story to unfold, it’s not an overlong film, and there definitely isn’t one or two main characters. It also happens to be very funny. All of the cast here (pretty much the cream of later-generation British talent) are quietly brilliant; no-one particularly steals the lime-light, they all just work perfectly together; understated but great acting. You can tell where most of the characters' stories are going: Maggie Smith’s fairly racist Muriel will obviously embrace the Indian culture by the end of the film (these are hardly spoilers), Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton’s marriage is clearly rocky, throw in a romantic story for Dev Patel as well as his struggle against an overbearing Mum and none of the film is terribly original. This doesn't matter at all, because it's the way we get there that's so enjoyable.

Director John Madden may not have the most illustrious back-catalogue (though Shakespeare in Love did win a Best Picture Academy Award), but he handles the various story arcs very well, weaving them in such a way that they don’t feel forced or focussed on one character too much. At one point I did feel that two of the characters had been marginalised; but no sooner had I had that thought, then we got back to them and their story was fleshed out more.

The film doesn’t do anything outstanding, but it is deftly handled, the cast are all great, and it is sometimes wickedly funny.