Every year, especially in the summer, there is a glut of movies for adolescent males (read 13 on to senility in some cases). Superheroes, action thrillers, and gross-out comedies strangle the multiplexes for months. Last summer Woody Allen's most successful movie Midnight in Paris garnered a large adult and delighted audience. This summer's adult entry is the British comedy The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which focuses on seven aging Brits from varying class backgrounds who decide to retire to a luxury hotel in Jaipur, India. What they find when they arrive is a broken down dump run by an overly excited young man, played by Slumdog Millionaire's Dev Patel.
But the spell of India with its constant noise, music, and color changes their disappointment into an opportunity for personal growth and even romance. The cast is exemplary, drawing from the best of BBC and Masterpiece Theater greats. The redoubtable Maggie Smith trades her uppity Downton Abbey accent for that of a house servant who has come to India for an inexpensive hip replacement. Judi Dench leads the cast as a widow whose husband has left her in debt. Her warm, engaging personality touches almost all of the expatriates and leads to a new love in her life (Bill Nighy). Tom Wilkinson gives a sensitive performance as a respected barrister with a dark secret in India. All of this sounds serious, but this is a comedy with drama. The cast lifts the somewhat mundane plot to comical heights through their interactions with each other and an alien culture. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a delightful version of the philosophy "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."
On a related note, when I saw this film in Memphis three weeks ago, the theater was fully packed. The next showing promised the same response. Yes, there was a lot of gray but also younger heads as well. Recently NBC canceled its highest rated drama series Harry's Law because the 18-45 audience wasn't watching, and they are the buyers! When will Hollywood figure out that there IS a buying audience and it's growing.