I have a fondness for the craft of acting more than the craft of the special effect. A sizzling line, a telling look, a raised eyebrow is more interesting than the shininess of a laser splattergun - or what ever the latest effect is.


We remember Jack Nicholson's line "You can't handle the truth!" more than we remember Tom Cruise's tirade in his apartment two scenes earlier in "A Few Good Men". We remember Leonard Nemoy's "Live long and prosper" more than we remember William Shatner's many fight scenes in Star Trek. We remember Roy Scheider's "We're going to need a bigger boat!" comment more than we remember how many people the shark ate in "Jaws". We remember Lauren Bacall's the look more than any of Angelina Jolie's stunts. The memories of great acting far outlive the flash of a special effect.


This is why John Madden's "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is so good. It's a showcase of some of the best actors around and truly some the best of the tremendous British a talent pool. All doing what they do best... delivering lines. The story is secondary to the talent.

At the point is Judy Dench as Evelyn Greenslade, a recently widowed woman who's late husband left her homeless because of his bad finances. Tom Wilkinson as Graham who suddenly retires though he had no desire to. Maggie Smith who is a feisty Muriel Donnelly with deep rooted prejudices. Celia Imrie and Ronald Pick Up as Madge and Norman - she still thinks she has what it takes to land a rich husband and he thinks he still got IT when it comes to picking up women. Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton both of whom play characters tired of the blandness of their retirement home who are ready to take a plunge into luxury.


They make up and ensemble of British retirees who are wooed into buying into a luxurious retirement hotel in Jaipur India run by Sonny (Dev Patel).


When they arrive, after a long journey they discover that the hotel is more or less a ramshackle mess. It definitely has seen it's better days.


It's not that Sonny conned them - he's right there to face the brunt of their disappointment - he just saw the hotel in a different light than they did. His exuberance and excitement over what he considered a gem of a facility for "the elderly and the beautiful".

It is a statement on India's notorious caste system that places the very wealthy next to the very poor yet neither the two shall engage each other. The Marigold is a left over from the days of the Rajya.


But it's lack of accoutrements forces the new guests to explore the surroundings and not only learn of India, but also learn of themselves. It's a geriatric coming of age.


But it's a coming of age with all the right characters and the perfect cast. This is a group that is not going to leap through the air with a flying drop kick or run down a grizzly and kill it with their phaser. No, they are going to dazzle with wit and a well delivered line.


Dench, Wilkerson and Smith are in their element as they banter about the hotel, the natives and themselves. This is a cast that would have included Alec Guinness and Sir John Gielgud fifteen years ago.


Younger audiences will have trouble with Madden's film because of it's lack of action and it's length. And yes, it is a bit longer than it probably should be. But when you have this much talent, you must give everyone room to deliver. Remember this is about character interaction and not body counts!


"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is a brilliant acting clinic that overshadows a mediocre narrative. It is proof positive that great actors make the movie, not the effects.   -- GEOFF BURTON