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Film / The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

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The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a 2011 film starring Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup, Celia Imrie, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith and Dev Patel. Its seven main characters are retired British people, who are all staying at the eponymous hotel after despairing of life back in Blighty.

Evelyn is recently-widowed and is forced to sell her home to pay off her deceased husband's debts, leaving her facing having to move in with her well-meaning but patronising son and his family.

Muriel is a rather racist old lady who's in badly in need of a hip-replacement, with the choice of either sitting on a 6-month waiting list to get the operation done in England, or letting the hospital outsource her to India (which is full of Indians(!)).

Douglas and Jean are a recently-retired couple who are left short of funds after an apparently unwise investment of their retirement fund, and who don't yet feel they're anywhere near old enough to move into the sheltered accommodation that they can afford.

Graham is a High Court judge who, having threatened for years to retire "any day now," walks out part way through a colleague's retirement party, declaring that "Today is the day."

Norman and Madge are both single, past their best, and lonely. Madge wants a wealthy husband so that she can live out her twilight years in comfort and luxury; while Norman is struggling to deal with the sex drive of a teenager in the body of a pensioner.

And Sonny is an enthusiastic young man who has inherited a "characterful" hotel from his late father, and who isn't going to let a little thing like cold, stark reality get in the way of his dreams.

A sequel, entitled The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, was released February 2015, with all surviving main characters returning, and David Strathairn and Richard Gere playing main roles.

This film provides examples of:

  • Arc Words: "I believe that everything will be alright in the end. And if everything is not alright, then it is not the end." Which is a Shout-Out to Om Shanti Om, no less.
  • Arranged Marriage: Sonny's mum wants to marry him off to a wealthy girl from Delhi.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Sunina's older brother doesn't approve of her relationship with Sonny, though he gets some respect for Sonny when he stands up to him.
  • Bollywood Nerd: Subverted. Sonny tries to present himself as a precocious business genius, but he is horrible at running the hotel and seems to have problems with maths.
  • Brick Joke: When the guests arrive at the hotel, Madge swaps rooms with Sonny because hers doesn't have a door and his does. It seems like a throwaway line at first, until later in the movie where Sunaina ends up naked in bed with Madge.
  • Bury Your Gays: Graham. Almost immediately after his subplot is complete. No need for him to have a supporting role in a sequel.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Muriel's former occupation proves to be rather important in the final act.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Norman. He's the stereotypical Dirty Old Man, but he's also very kind and friendly. Norman is always the one helping Muriel with her wheelchair in the airport and on the bus (while underscoring that he doesn't want any young ladies to think that they're a couple).
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Sonny's exuberant personality, combined with his pie in the sky ideas and general lack of business acumen, cause many people to label him a lunatic.
  • Cool Old Guy and Cool Old Lady: Simply put, it's their movie.
    • A perhaps defining moment is when Graham comes out to his new friends as gay, and nobody so much as bats an eyelid. Given their age-range, this is particularly surprising.
  • Dirty Old Man: Norman.
  • Hypocrite: Jean blasts Douglas for "flirting" with Evelyn, even though she was pretty much throwing herself at Graham before he told her that he was gay.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Why Jean's attempt to make a move on Graham doesn't work out too well. He actually says Sorry, I'm Gay almost verbatim.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Muriel and Sonny.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Early in the film Jean points out to the real estate agent that the panic button would be useless if she and Douglas fell in a different room and not near the panic button.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Muriel is angry and bigoted, but she's actually quite generous and helpful once she gets over her bitterness about how she was treated by the family that she worked for.
  • Large Ham: Of all people, Dev Patel!
  • Loveable Sex Maniac: Despite his Dirty Old Man traits, Norman is such an all-around unassuming, non-judgmental Nice Guy that his behavior usually comes across as comical and endearing rather than sleazy.
  • Meaningful Name: Sonny.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Madge, briefly, by Sonny's mother.
  • My Beloved Smother: Played with. Sonny's mother is over-controlling and insensitive to her son's dreams and feelings - but, given Sonny's inability to properly manage the hotel, her actions are at least partly justified.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Douglas spends the night getting high at a brothel. We only learn about this after his night-traveling montage, but the scene would have been spectacular as acted by Nighy.
  • Operator from India: Sonny's girlfriend works in a call centre, and Evelyn also takes up a job coaching Indian operators in English culture.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: Sonny's mother is eager to exercise this.
  • Polish the Turd: The decrepit hotel is advertised as a dream holiday spot.
  • Precision F-Strike: Sonny to Sunaina's brother, when finally confessing his love for her.
  • Racist Grandma: Muriel. (Though she's not a grandmother.)
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Jean gets a spectacular one after her movie long constant criticism of Douglas and everything else culminates in her butting in to complain as he comforts Evelyn about her own husband.
  • Scenery Porn: India is beautiful and the film will let you know it.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: A Running Gag: Sonny speaks English using overblown, florid vocabulary, even when he's being personal and not simply shilling his hotel. It gets pretty dissonant in one scene towards the end, when he encounters Evelyn on the street and informs her of the hotels impending closure, turning on his best managerial tone yet increasingly unable to hold back his bitter frustration.
  • Straight Gay: Graham
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Muriel when she bonds with an Untouchable.
  • Type Caste: Indian caste stratification is specifically addressed in the movie.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Muriel and Evelyn towards the end.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Sonny. Though unlike how this usually goes, he actually doesn't have all the skills he needs to achieve his dream.

The sequel provides examples of:

  • Advertised Extra: David Strathairn appears in about two scenes, yet is listed in the trailers and posters with the main cast.
  • Always Someone Better: Kush, Sunina's friend. He's handsome, he has more business savvy, he's quick-witted, and Sonny is deeply jealous and resentful.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comparison:
    Jean: I couldn't resist the chance to come out and visit the old crumbling ruins. And see how the hotel was doing as well. (Bursts out laughing, not joined by the others.)
  • Bilingual Backfire: Invoked by Evelyn's partner, who coaches her to say something in Hindi after he starts mocking her to the man they're negotiating with, giving him the (correct) impression she can't understand them.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Although everything works out nicely for the other characters, Muriel resigns from the hotel and it's strongly implied that she will die soon. Nonetheless she calls her time at the hotel some of the happiest in her life.
  • Chekhov's Gag: The little quirk with the Americans and their tea helps alert Muriel that Lavinia is really an American undercover.
  • Costume Porn: In true Bollywood tradition, the costumes for the wedding are quite lavish.
  • Dance of Romance: Sunina choreographs an impressive one for the wedding. Sonny isn't happy about rehearsing it with Kush.
  • December–December Romance: Evelyn and Douglas get a relationship upgrade, as do Norman and Carol, while Guy ends up with Mrs. Kapoor.
  • Died Happily Ever After: Implied that this will be the case with Muriel. She says that her time managing the hotel has been some of the happiest in her life.
  • Exact Words: Ty Burley tells Sonny and Muriel that they'll be sending a "guy" to evaluate the hotel, undercover as a guest. When Guy Chambers shows up, Sonny makes the obvious assumption and gives him the royal treatment while virtually ignoring Lavinia Beech, who checked in at the same time. The twist is that Sonny is right - Lavinia is undercover for a competing company.
  • Fake Brit: In-Universe, Lavinia Beach, making her actress Tamsin Greig a Fake American.
  • Girlfriend in Canada: Jean claims that she wants to remarry. She might not have been completely honest about how far along the courtship was going.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Norman discovers that Carol has been sleeping with other men (and she had assumed he was sleeping with other women), but they ultimately still end up together.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Having left behind her Racist Grandma days, Muriel is now acerbic and crotchety in general.
  • Honest Corporate Executive: Ty Burley isn't out to exploit Sonny and Muriel and gives them a fair hearing in spite of their obvious eccentricity. His inspector Guy also warns against Lavinia's bosses and apologizes for his deception, and Burley visits the hotel in person to commend Muriel on the job she and Sonny have done.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The first trailer played up Madge's "have mercy on my ovaries" line and made it seem as if there would be a romance between her and Guy. However the second trailer showed that the romance was between Guy and Sonny's mother.
  • Obviously Evil: Norman's cabbie, the one with the eyepatch and the car with the scorpion on it. When Norman finally tracks him down, however, it's among a fleet of scorpion-emblazoned cabs. It was all a misunderstanding.
  • Oh, Crap!: Norman realizes he may have accidentally put a hit out on his girlfriend Carol when last night's cab driver nearly runs her over. He hasn't. It really was bad driving.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Many of the character's problems could be solved by them taking the time to sit and talk.
  • Sad Bollywood Wedding: Averted. Sonny and Suanina's wedding is a happy occasion, with Suanina looking giddy throughout.
  • Shipper on Deck: Several for Douglas and Evelyn, including Jean (albeit partly because she wants to be able to claim adultery as grounds for divorce).
  • Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Lavinia Beach gets about as much screentime as Guy, yet Tamsin Greig is absent from said trailers and posters. Carol appears in the trailer, getting one line ("Both here", in unison with Norman), but Diana Hardcastle is not listed with the main cast.
  • Take a Third Option:
    • Madge has a choice between two suitors and doesn't seem to know which one she'll marry. It's implied that she gives things a go with her driver.
    • Sonny is faced with letting the Marigold languish for lack of funds, or go into business with Kush, whom he can't stand. Instead, he buys the Viceroy and sets that up as his Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: One trailer shows the wedding, which is the end of the film complete with Sonny announcing the Title Drop of "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel."
  • What the Hell, Hero?: "Are you pimping out your own mother?"
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The plot thread about the undercover hotel inspectors is pretty clearly based on the Fawlty Towers episode "The Hotel Inspectors", except Sonny guesses correctly who was sent by Burley.