If the film “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” has thus far escaped your attention, it’s probably because you don’t spend your afternoons unironically knitting wool hats for your eight grandchildren, nor do you pine for five o’clock to roll around so you can hit the bingo lounge and kick back with a six-pack of prune juice. If you think that’s a patronizing caricature of what happens after you hit sixty-five, wait until you set your peepers on the production stills for the actual film, which have cropped up on Fox Searchlight’s site. The plot, which will be invariably be described as “feel-good” and “heart-warming” when the film’s released, appears to involve a group of senior citizens who are hoodwinked into checking into an apparently plush luxury retirement home in India, but all is not what it appears to be. What hilarious high-jinks will ensue for the film’s fresh-faced stars (Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton and Celia Imrie) we can only speculate. It does vaguely resemble “The Darjeeling Limited” with its theme of self-discovery in one of the most culturally rich countries on the planet, except with a combined age of 236.
To be honest, the film looks to be right in the vein of “Calendar Girls”/“The Full Monty,” and is directed by a man who has been aching for a hit for a while now. Yes, it’s “Shakespeare in Love” helmer John Madden, who landed a Best Director nomination for his film about The Bard thanks to the maniacal zeal of Harvey Weinstein, but has yet to prove in any of his subsequent films — “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin,” “Proof,” “Killshot,” and this week’s “The Debt” — that he was worthy of the honor. However, he was also responsible for “Mrs Brown,” a film Dench got Oscar-nominated for in 1996, so providing the narrative doesn’t take a violent left turn into “The Expendables” territory where Dench turns out to be a murderous drug-runner married to Eric Roberts, we can at least expect some strong septuagenarian performances. And in case we hadn’t realized they were nakedly attempting to get some of that outdated “Slumdog Millionaire” gold-dust to rub off on them, ‘Slumdog”s lead, Dev Patel, has been parachuted in to play the old fogies’ tour guide.
But these are just the stills. We await the trailer set to “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves,” wherein Dench – let’s take a wild guess – scampers around the streets of Bangalore in a peach sarong all loose, free and lallygagging only to get roughed up by an elephant whilst Patel crashes a rickshaw into a swimming pool. “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” opens on March 9, 2012.