Blueprint Pictures/Participant Media/Fox Searchlight Pictures
Directed by John Madden
Produced by Graham Broadbent/Peter Czernin
Written by Ol Parker
Based on characters from the novel “These Foolish Things” by Deborah Moggach
If you go to see THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL I strongly suspect it will be solely because like me, you went to see the first one and liked it. Or maybe you’re a movie lover who is retired and in their golden years like the characters in this movie and you’re not interested in going to see a movie with a lot of sex, cussing and stuff blowing up. Fair enough. I myself appreciate and heartily endorse movies like this one because there are a lot of retired and elderly folk who enjoy going out to see a movie. And they aren’t interested in superheroes or excessively violent and sexually explicit action extravaganzas with all that naughty language. Again, fair enough. When we talk about diversity in our entertainment, let’s not forget our retired and elderly. They deserve to have movies made for them playing in theaters featuring actors playing characters their age and dealing with issues they themselves may be going through.
And to be honest, it wouldn’t hurt some of you whippersnappers reading this to get your head out of all that angry sex and hyper-violence once in a while. Dark movies that are grim and despairing and full of angst are okay and all but you don’t have to revel in your wallowing in it, okay? Watch something cheerful and life-affirming to cleanse your mental palate. Trust me, it’s better for you.
The thing that makes THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL a good sequel for me is that it actually continues the story of the characters we met in the first movie and gives them new challenges and takes their lives in new directions, building and expanding on what happened to them in the first. Evelyn Greenslade (Judi Dench) has suddenly and amazingly found herself with a whole new career on her hands. She’s been offered a job to purchase textiles in India and ship them to her native England as she’s become a whiz at haggling for the best prices with the local merchants. Co-owners/managers Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith) and Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) have ambitious plans to expand The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel that depend on them impressing the representative of an American hotel chain they hope to get financing from. The problem is that they don’t know if the representative is the somewhat mysterious Guy Chambers (Richard Gere) or the cheerful Lavinia Beach (Tamsin Greig)
Douglas Ainslie (Bill Nighy) has become a tour guide. A job made all the more difficult as he doesn’t have the slightest idea of the history or architecture he’s supposed to be an expert on (his solution to the problem provides some of the best laughs in the movie) Aging playboy Norman Cousins (Ronald Pickup) fears that while during a drunken venting session with a cab driver he may have mistakenly put a hit on his unsuspecting girlfriend Carol (Diana Hardcastle) Madge Hardcastle (Celia Imrie) is juggling two suitors, both of them immensely rich and both capable of providing her with the financial security she craves. But is that enough for her?
Yeah, that’s a lot of subplots elbowing each other for space. Throw in the upcoming wedding of Sonny and Sunaina (Tina Desai) and the romance between Guy and Sonny’s mother (Lillete Dubey) and that’s a lot to keep track of. But I didn’t have a problem doing so as I was invested in these characters and genuinely wanted to see how things were going to work out for them. And the multiple plots doesn’t give you time to get bored. We’re constantly going from one plot to another and that makes for a rather lively pace.
That doesn’t mean the movie was all that. The relationship between Evelyn and Douglas gets a bit tiresome as there’s no real reason for them not to consummate it. She obviously likes him and he obviously likes her. Hell, even Douglas’ estranged wife Jean (Penelope Wilton) asks Evelyn, “What the hell are you waiting for?” I missed the insights in Indian culture and the scenery we got in the first movie. After I saw the first movie I wanted to jump on a plane and go to India. I didn’t feel like that after I saw this one and I missed that feeling.
But we do get an absolutely wonderful performance from Maggie Smith who with such brazen ruthlessness steals every scene she’s in. She has all the best lines in the movie, including one I’m going to put on a T-shirt. Her relationship with Dev Patel’s Sonny is for me, the sweetest and most heartfelt one in the movie. It’s a great friendship, one that doesn’t feel forced or contrived. It’s a testament to the acting talent of both Smith and Patel that we buy 100% into this oddest of odd couples.
So yeah, I’ll admit that THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL is little more than a Lifetime movie on steroids. But I can’t find it in my heart to dislike a movie that has so many characters that I genuinely like and enjoyed spending a couple of hours revisiting. The cast is so enormously talented and elevates the material in such fine fashion that I feel they gave me my money’s worth of entertainment. Highly Recommended.