Contextual Analysis of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

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At A2 it is vital to make sure you are aware of the fact that a text lives within a context. You must always consider why audiences receive a film well at a certain time. For example, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was released, at a time where concerns are voiced regarding an aging population. There are currently 4 people of working age supporting each pensioner in Britain, by 2035 this number is expected to fall to 2.5, and by 2050 to just 2. The number of people of working age in relation to retirees is known as the ‘dependency ratio’. This ageing of populations is a global phenomenon, being witnessed not only in Britain but in such developed countries as Italy, Spain, Germany and Japan. (21stcenturychallenges.org, 2013) Audiences are clearly able to relate to the issues addressed in the film. (Pay attention to how the research and the contemporary media issues are interwoven and embedded into the discussion.)

The film deals with a range of complex issues faced in society by those who are on the brink of retirement. Recently widowed housewife Evelyn (Dench) must sell her home to cover huge debts left by her late husband. It explores the issues of the place of women in society and perhaps the marital home, where in a patriarchal society it leaves the dependent vulnerable, but also offers her with the opportunity to become independent and find her own voice. Issues such as loss and coping with key choices and decisions to be made by those left behind are also explored. In addition, this part of the film also taps into the issues of non-digital natives, having to cope with the challenges of digital advancement. (Look at how references are also mode to critical theories such as digital natives. Focus on how key terminologies are embedded in the writing.) In addition, it demonstrates what the impact of such technological advancements are in the sense that individuals on the other side of the phone line, an in particular those working at a call centre, loses touch with the individual, their needs and presents a faceless, impersonal service which impacts negatively on those in society. Audience will be able to relate to the ironic portrayal as many had to encounter the realities or being put on hold, or a script that does not consider their life situations. In recent years newsreports regarding the services provided by call centres explored issues such as the cultural divide when using centres abroad and also the lack of insight of the centre regarding the issues in the country they are supporting as seen in articles such as ‘Top 10 Call Centre Problems.’ (callcentrehelper.com, 2013)

Evelyn finds that she needs to reconstruct her life. She ironically finds employment as an advisor for a call centre advising them on how to deal with British customers. Her role is pivotal and it again explores key global issues such as the use of call centres and the impact it has on the developing world and others.

The issue of retirement is explored in a range of different ways and Graham (Wilkinson), a high-court judge who had spent his first eighteen years in India, abruptly decides to retire and return there.  Wikinson’s character represents those who lived through the glorious explorations and benefits presented by colonialism and the great British Empire, and the text also explores the impact different cultures and values have on others. His return to this childhood experience is a nostalgic look back on the past, but also a difficult journey in terms of the reality, as things have changed so much. However, this trip back to his past allows him to consolidate all the loose ends in his life, in the post-colonial era he finds himself in. Many audience members watching the film, and in particular an older generation will be able to relate to his experiences as they might come from a similar era too.

Jean (Wilton) and Douglas (Nighy) seek a retirement they can afford, having lost most of their savings through investing in their daughter’s internet business. The two characters represent those in society hoping for a better tomorrow, and taking risks by investing in things they don’t often understanding. The film touches on issues such as exploitations of the vulnerable in society, parental love, greed and hope. Jean (Wilton) also represents the status conscious in society, and reveals her feelings for the retired Judge; however, it presents its own issues when Graham reveals his sexual preferences which leaves her embarrassed and humiliated. Issues of acceptance and sexuality are also explored, and there is a sense of openness and acceptance which the modern audience can relate to.

Muriel (Smith), a retired housekeeper prejudiced against Indians, and every other person of colour under the sun (which again might have been perceived as a typical colonial view, and a shocking, but humorous reminder of a past era), needs a hip replacement operation which can be done far more quickly and inexpensively in India. The character and her situation, explores the current state of the national medical support available and the issue of globalisation. It investigates broadly how the NHS is contracting more costly aspects of medical care out to more affordable ports.  These are very contemporary issues that audiences will encounter in the media landscape and stories such as NHS gets go-ahead for surgery abroad (Mail Online, 2013) are common placed, and the film is a reminder of such social concerns. However, Smith’s character also explores issues such as racism, and the fact that with more insight, compassion and time anything is possible, and such bridges can also be crossed.

In addition, through Smith’s character the issues of retirement are explored in great depth in the sense of how an individual is valued and how a job can provide a sense of purpose in life, as she directly asks the question: ‘what do one do with the time?’

Madge (Celia Imrie) is hunting for another husband – and the classic theme of being a gold digger is explored in a more humorous way looking at what such individuals might do in their twilight years, and Norman (Pickup), an aging lothario, is trying to re-capture his youth. They each decide on a retirement hotel in India, based on pictures on its website.

When the group finally arrives in India, they are met with a country that is a real ‘assault’ to the senses. The picturesque hotel despite the energetic young manger Sonny (Patel) is very dilapidated.  The manager of the hotel struggles to raise funds for the hotel, and his efforts are often overlooked by his family. His brothers and family advises him that the hotel must be demolished, but he sees the hotel as nostalgic reminder of his father, and also a symbol of pride which he wishes to successfully run.  Sonny’s personal life is troubled too as he sees his girlfriend, Sunaina (Desae), despite his mother’s disapproval. His mother’s advice is for him to demolish the hotel, and to return to Delhi for an arranged marriage. This again is a very contemporary issue which is often being debated in the news. However, Sonny is persuaded by Evelyn to pursue his heart and to finally tell Susnaina that he loves her.

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