"Do not go gently into that good night," the poet urged us. And that goes for actors as well as anybody else.
A cast of great Brits of old-age pensioner vintage lights up John Madden's film of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, an adorable comedy about elderly pioneers tackling life's last great adventure.
The conceit in this film of the Deborah Moggach novel is that these folks — retirees without vast savings — are the next great "outsourcing" gold mine. India is ready to replace your hips and turn an ancient hotel into a retirement home.
As for the seniors, why not spend your retirement in a country where living is exotic and cheap?
Evelyn (Judi Dench, pitch-perfect) is a vulnerable but plucky new widow. Muriel (Maggie Smith, flintier than ever) is an ailing old racist who sniffs at a black doctor. Jean and Douglas (Penelope Wilton and Bill Nighy) buy into the luxurious promises of the "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." Madge (Celia Imrie) is on the lookout for one last husband. Norman (Ronald Pickup) is a randy old coot who doesn't feel like an old coot. Graham (Tom Wilkinson, on the money) is a crusty judge who fears nothing so much as his own retirement party.
They make their passage to India, to Jaipur, where they discover that young Sonny (Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire) has overstated the virtues of his hotel "for the elderly and beautiful."
Madden's light, frothy film is entirely too long for the subject, a smidge on the precious side, a trifle predictable, and occasionally melodramatic.
But it never fails to amuse, with every player in the cast having his or her share of pithy, droll, and perfectly delivered lines.
This charmer is that rare movie that treats old age as more than tragic or cute, that never condescends to its characters or shortchanges its intended AARP-discount audience.
THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL
Directed by John Madden. Screenplay by Ol Parker, based on the novel by Deborah Moggach. A Fox Searchlight Pictures release, playing at Rave Franklin Park and levis Commons. Rated PG-13 for sexual content and language. Running time: 124 minutes.
Evelyn ............ Judi Dench
Graham ............ Tom Wilkinson
Douglas ............ Bill Nighy