I am a complete sucker for the main elements of John Madden’s “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” a low-tech, feel-good film about seven elderly English people who respond to an ad for retirement in India. All are looking for renewal or retreat and relief from the financial pressures London life.
1) I love India. And I share the English fascination with its transformative power. I really appreciated Madden’s magnificent footage of Jaipur capturing perfectly the hectic, brilliant and dusty beauty of Rajasthan.
2) I love great acting. And Madden has assembled an A-plus team including Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson and Penelope Wilton. Under his guidance, they all give truthful, human and beautifully nuanced performances. So many world-class performances in one film is a luxury.
3) I love stories about transformation and it’s never being too late to expand one’s consciousness. Transformation is the heart of the film. Madden handles what could be sentimental and predictable with a master’s light touch, always with an invisible hand — often undervalued gifts in directors’ work.
Madden endears us to each character, every story. We’ve had a fun and meaningful time watching the often scary but always powerful allure of leaving our comfort zone. No small accomplishment.
Lynne Meadow, artistic director of Manhattan Theater Club, helms “The Assembled Parties,” a new play opening on Broadway in April.