Film Review: 'The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'
Opened: 27 February 2015 (UK)
Cast: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup, Diana Hardcastle, Tina Desai, Dev Patel, Lillete Dubey, Richard Gere, David Strathairn, Tamsin Greig
Director: John Madden
Producers: Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin
As far as sequels go, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a serviceable follow up to 2012’s sparkling British comedy, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel sees it through, thanks mainly to its adorable and charming veteran cast who do a marvelous job of holding its oft convoluted plot together in what proves to be a worthy but ultimately, inferior and redundant follow up to its predecessor.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel takes off several months after the first film ends, in a picturesque albeit (still) dilapidated ruin of a hotel in Jaipur serving as a retreat for pensioners who want to have a second stab at life. The original cast all return as their distinct, lovable and yet entirely flawed characters – Judi Dench as Evelyn Greenslade, who now works as a fabric buyer in a local market, Maggie Smith as Muriel Donnelly, the overtly cynical, tea drinking front desk grump who’s now the hotel’s co-manager and receptionist, and Bill Nighy’s Douglas Ainslie a goofy and bumbling tour guide. They’re aided ably by returning residents – the ever ‘enthusiastic’ Celia Imrie as Madge Hardcastle, Ronald Pickup as Norman Cousins and Diana Hardcastle as Carol, and new characters Lillete Dubey as the dignified yet underwritten Mrs Kapoor, Richard Gere as Guy Chambers (still as charming and handsome as ever) and Tamsin Greig as Lavinia.
Each member of the cast get ample space and screen time in which to shine so even though the film centres around enthusiastic hotel owner Sunny (Dev Patel, likeable and irritating in equal measures), who’s over zealousness in expanding his ‘hotel empire’ begins to affect his relationship with pretty fiancée Sunaina (Tina Desai) and their impending nuptials, the other characters get their own little arcs too, whereby they face their own dilemmas and quandaries and explore their demons, which Madden just about manages to juggle and fit in to the film's two hour running time.
Despite its overtly morbid theme of old age pensioners ambling around in a retreat, waiting for their inevitable ends, just like its predecessor, there’s an undeniable warmth about The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Madden, aided by a decent screenplay, and a popular (albeit now dated) Bollywood background score, sticks to an already established formula so there’s not much here in terms of originality. He rightly lets the film’s veterans do its heavy lifting each of whom do a spot on job of infusing even their most mundane lines with the right amount of deadpan and wit. Unsurprisingly, Judi Dench and Maggie Smith are given the film’s better characters and they don’t disappoint, particularly Smith, who stands tall and towers above everybody else with her cynical and humorous one liners.
The remaining members of the ensemble cast enact their parts seamlessly and you get to relate to most of their character motivations, but perhaps Madden should have reduced their prominence and focused more on the principal love stories between Dench and Nighy and Patel and Desai’s characters. Dubey for example, although charming, never really gets a chance to shine, and her interesting, but unnecessary romantic track with the ever likeable Gere is never fully established.
Still, despite being being bogged down by unnecessary sub plots and a few niggles aside, there’s a fair amount of warmth, dry wit and poignancy in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and as such, despite never quite scaling the emotional heights of the first film, it's still a decent, moving and eminently likeable, albeit forgettable film that will keep you engaged throughout its run time. I’m going with a very respectable three and a half stars.