Went to see this movie yesterday, mostly for the number of British stars in the cast: Judi Dench is the center of this movie, with Maggie Smith trying to steal it from her, and Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson also threatening to. I don’t think anyone’s made a movie before this about a bunch of retirees going to live in a disarrayed Indian palace-turned-hotel, though all the same, it didn’t feel unlike a lot of movies I’ve seen involving this kind of cast. Though it’s hard to mind that when the movie’s done this well.
Sure, poor Penelope Wilton gets stuck playing a harridan wife(though even she has her moment of redemption in the end), and yes, this kind of plot requires at least one old person to die by the end of the film, but one can never be entirely comfortable when yet again it’s the gay guy, but when the movie moves into exploring the depths of its characters, it can be very deeply moving. Judi Dench’s acting skills may not be tested by this role, but she makes a wonderful old lady turned blogger narrator, and Maggie Smith gets a bit more exercised as the bigoted old lady who unexpectedly earns the gratitude of an Untouchable servant and then ultimately saves the day when everything goes wrong. Nighy and Wilkinson too have their moments, the latter especially; his story is arguably the most touching.
Also it’s a very funny movie, though the jokes are very strongly woven into the narrative; some of them I found myself only finding funny later, when the plot wasn’t distracting me anymore. Lots of Indian scenery and music as well, with the former very much a look at the streets and “ground level” of India, focusing more on the crowds than the tourist appeal; you get a real feel for the place. Not that there’s not a good deal of eye candy even so.