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The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Back in March, Malvern Theatres had showing for one week only The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, starring Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Celia Imrie, Bill Nighy (who I think is gorgeous), Tom Wilkinson, and Ronald Pickup. Clearly it was an all-star cast, and it was the first film for ages that I’ve actually wanted to go and see. Unfortunately the dates clashed both with the Balliol College Gaudy weekend, and with an extremely busy week at work writing a huge milestone report, so I couldn’t find time to go.

Last week I got an email from the theatre saying that they were starting a new initiative, of Tuesday morning cinema showings, and the first film would be The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I still really wanted to see it, but 10:30 on a weekday morning is a very awkward time for anyone who actually has to earn a living. I may only be working reduced hours at the moment, but I’m always in work well before 10:30. However, it so happened that I had plenty of hours in hand, due to spending a very long day on Monday doing a customer site visit. I had no meetings planned for Tuesday, so was able to arrange to take the day off work as time-off-in-lieu.

I was surprised at how popular the screening was. I got there about five past ten, and already there was a queue at the box-office for tickets. By quarter past, the queue was longer than I’ve ever seen it at Malvern cinema. Even the box-office staff were pleasantly surprised at how popular it turned out to be. Given the time of day, and the subject matter of the film, the vast majority of the audience was a good twenty to thirty years older than me – I felt young and spritely in comparison!

The film is an ensemble piece about a group of British pensioners, who for a variety of reasons all decide to out-source their retirement to a hotel in India, which is advertising itself  (with very photoshopped images) as a retirement paradise for the “elderly and beautiful”. Of course when they get there the hotel is a crumbling wreck, run by a hugely over-optimistic but charming young Indian would-be entrepreneur (played by Dev Patel). His approach to life is summed up in his statement that “Things are always all right in the end. So if they’re not all right, it’s not the end”. There is a huge culture shock for them at the beginning, but over the course of a few months, all but one of them becomes acclimatised to India and starts to love it there.

There was one moment that did hit home a bit too closely for comfort. Judi Dench plays a recent widow, and one scene has her phoning a call-centre at her internet provider. They refused to speak to her because she wasn’t the person named on the account, and insisted on speaking to her husband – who of course was dead. I remember all too clearly having exactly the same conversation with numerous call centres!

Apart from that one dodgy moment, I really enjoyed the film. It was laugh-out-loud funny in places, and all the actors were superb – as you would expect of a cast of that quality. I won’t be able to make a regular thing of going to Malvern cinema Tuesday mornings, as work will have to take priority, but I was very pleased that I was able to manage it this week.