I woke up late this morning after a busy night (dog, chocolates, vomiting — long story) and discovered that at some point over the past few hours, nominations were announced for the Academy Awards. Aside from sobbing my way through Les Misérables a couple of weeks ago, I haven’t seen any of the top contenders. In fact, I’m not bothered about the Oscars one way or the other, but I was still a little disappointed that The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel didn’t get any nominations.
I can understand why the film itself was shut out. The storyline — about a group of British pensioners who flee their dreary lives in England for a retirement home in India — is so clichéd and contrived, it’s almost an embarrassment to mention it. There are also a few underperforming subplots that should have been cut loose long before the script was finalized, although even that act of mercy wouldn’t have saved the plot from mediocrity.
What surprises me is that such an outstanding cast was snubbed. Please! Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Tom Wilkinson, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup — it’s the crème de la crème of British actors. Also featured is Dev Patel (of Slumdog Millionaire fame) as the hapless proprietor of the crumbling hotel, a sweet-natured dreamer whose vision of the establishment doesn’t quite match up with its dilapidated reality. In these capable hands, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel comes alive.
The characters include some familiar archetypes. How many of these have you met on your travels?
- The Seeker, who’s returning to the one place he was truly happy.
- The Sponge, who’s open to every new experience that comes her way.
- The Fossil, whose mistrust of everything unfamiliar blinds her to what’s possible.
- The Butterfly, whose journey leads to a complete (and somewhat unbelievable) transformation.
Expats will recognize many of the sentiments expressed in the film. One character muses:
“This is a new and different world. The challenge is to cope with it. And not just cope, but to thrive.”
There you have it: expatriation in a nutshell.
The same character (whose Yoda-esque pronouncements do get a bit irritating after a while) has the perfect piece of advice for anyone who’s found herself in a strange and confusing land:
“Initially you’re overwhelmed. But gradually you realize it’s like a wave. Resist, and you’ll be knocked over. Dive into it, and you’ll swim out the other side.”
I’ll leave you with a final bit of wisdom from Sonny, the young Indian who ties the film together:
“In India we have a saying: everything will be all right in the end. So if it is not all right, then it is not yet the end.”
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is available on DVD. I suggest you check it out. I don’t care what the Academy says — I loved it.