THE BOOK AND THE FILM: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
By Deborah Moggach
Unlike some people who say they will wait for the film, I always say that I prefer to read the book first.
Only on very few occasion have I felt that the film of a book was as good, was able to tell as much in the visual medium, or was better. A cinema seat usually costs more than a paperback and the book gives you more hours of enjoyment so for an avid reader it is usually no contest.
One of the few films that I have enjoyed as much as the book that it is based on, is ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’. For once I did not complain about how much they had changed the story. I got it! They changed the story to suit the medium but stayed true to the essence and character of the book. And it worked.
An assorted bunch of great characters are persuaded for very different reasons to retire to India. They all share the wish to make their pension go further and in India it does. Of course the ‘Hotel’ is not quite as presented in the brochure when they arrive! In fact it is falling apart. But, partners in adversity, they adapt, get involved and provide us with a story full of poignant humour and a feel good factor at the end.
The film took some of the original characters and presented them quite faithfully but changed others. Making the owner of the hotel a young man enabled them to include a romantic interest and a bit of social comment as Sonny juggled his business, his love life and his prickly relationship with his mother.
Norman, whose infuriating habits and repeated expulsions from various homes for the elderly was, in the book a totally selfish and clown-like character. In the film he was much more sympathetic and likeable.
Without a doubt one of the best things about the film was the great cast. As soon as you hear the likes of Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Celia Imrie and Ronald Pickup on the cast list you know you are in for a treat.
I still think I enjoyed the film more because I had read the book and definitely more when I saw it for the second time after a longer period since reading it. That is the secret I think. Do not read the book and see the film too close together. You will remember the spirit of the story and connect with it but not be so aware of the changes in the details which sometimes distract you.
Both the book and the film were excellent.