Movie: The Second
Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Director: John Madden
Cast: Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Lilette Dubey, Richard Gere A naturally charming film, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel required no sequels. But now that one has arrived, one thinks there couldn’t have been a better idea.
Directed by the wonderful John Madden, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel picks up just where its predecessor left things: a group of elderly English retirees camping out at the newly resurrected pensioner’s hotel, run by now partners Sonny (Dev Patel) and Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith).
Now that everyone’s settled in at the hotel, they’ve all taken up different professions to keep their lives going. The film opens with the two partners, Sonny and Muriel, visiting San Diego to take a meeting about a possible expansion of the original hotel.
Despite, or perhaps because of, the salty hilarity of Muriel, the company receiving their pitch (led by David Strathairn) promises to consider the proposal. He also hints that he will send someone incognito to take a look the property and value its potential.
So when a gorgeous stranger and a self-proclaimed novelist Guy Chambers (played by Richard Gere) turns up suddenly at the hotel, he is presumed to be that someone. He also falls head over heels in love with Sonny’s mother Mrs Kapoor (Lilette Dubey). And whimsical comedy ensues.
There’s a lot of other things happening at the hotel, of course. Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Evelyn (Judi Dench) are still continuing their quite courtship, although why they take so long to express their feelings to each other is a conflict I didn’t care to understand. There was no need for a second build up all over again.
Norman (Ronald Pickup) and Carol (Diana Hardcastle), who hooked up in the last installment are still together and going through the ups and downs of monogamous life.
Madge (Celia Imrie) is being courted by two eligible Indian suitors and she can’t make up her mind, which one she wants.
All of this is pitted against the larger backdrop of Sonny’s impending wedding to Sunaina (Tena Desae). And while Sonny is trying to juggle the acquisition of a new hotel and rehearsing for the Sangeet, he also needs to come face to face with his own insecurities. And with a little help from Muriel, he gets there eventually.
While the stories seem farcical and a tad too stretched and repetitive, what ultimately lifts the movie is the sheer talent on screen. Watching Maggie Smith and Judi Dench spar with words is a delight like none other. Bill Nighy with his extreme likability steals the show with just one line: “The great horror of life is that there’s just so much bloody potential.”
Just the way he delivers that line had the entire theatre sighing in unison. Dev Patel as always enchants with his infectious affable energy. There’s not a dull moment when he’s around.
The only person who perhaps didn’t fit too well into the cast was Richard Gere. The problem being that he is Richard Gere. It’s just plain distracting to have him strutting his stuff on screen and one feels like the movie will suddenly turn into a rom-com of sorts.
While not the best sequel ever, it’s certainly a well-intentioned one, with great warmth and heart. You’ll walk out of the film feeling light, happy and a little reassured of where your own life may be headed. Maybe we haven’t seen the last of this sprightly old bunch.