British actress Judi Dench rarely makes a wrong move with any role she's given, a talent duly noted through the years whether she's being handed an Oscar for her turn in “Shakespeare in Love” or being nominated, as she has been five more times, for films as diverse in tone as “Notes on a Scandal” and “Chocolat.”
Still there is irony that one of her most nuanced performances comes now in the small summer surprise of director John Madden's “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” It's a lovely postcard to the possibilities of one's later years with a sprawling ensemble overflowing with other accomplished actors — Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith and Bill Nighy among them.
As a recent widow with staggering debts deciding to chuck Britain's expensive chill for India's sunny warmth and discount prices, Dench creates a new version of the classic coming-of-age arc. The woman she plays is many decades beyond the angst that more typically plagues adolescence.
But as she is wont to do, Dench finds a way to bring that journey to life in such originality and richness that when she's on screen it's impossible to look away, and when the film is over, she's impossible to forget.
— Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times film critic