The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
(PG) Starring: Maggie Smith, Dev Patel, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Richard Gere
With its all-star cast of ageing British thespians, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was one of the surprise hits of 2012. By tapping the potential of the oft-ignored “grey-dollar”, it grossed $135 million worldwide — an astonishing figure for a film more interested in seventy year olds than seventeen year olds. Given it proved a shock success, how could 20th Century Fox resist a return visit with the riskily titled The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel?
In the first movie, Sonny Kapoor (played by Dev Patel) had the idea to outsource retirement to India. Eight months on from the events of that film, his business is booming. The young entrepreneur has expansion on his mind. A US retirement company agrees to send an assessor to Jaipur, to determine whether the Marigold Hotel is a worthwhile investment. When Guy (Richard Gere), an American novelist claiming to be on a research trip, arrives shortly after, Sonny is adamant that he must be the assessor. Meanwhile, the foundation residents of the Marigold have successfully found a new lease on life in India, complete with jobs, friends and lovers. Mrs Donnelly (Maggie Smith) co-manages the hotel; Evelyn (Judi Dench) buys fabrics at the local market; Douglas (Bill Nighy) is a tour guide, and Norman (Ronald Pickup) and Madge (Celia Imrie) run the bar at the ex-pats club. The tentative romance between Evelyn and Douglas still requires a push, while Madge is entertaining multiple wealthy suitors. Yes, there are subplots everywhere.
While the first film was based on Deborah Moggach’s novel, she only wrote on. So, this sequel is the brainchild of the returning writer-director team, Ol Parker and John Madden. They manage to successfully recapture the formula which made the first instalment work. The colour, noise and vibrancy of India gives these films their life, and this one comes complete with an Indian wedding. But where the comedy in the first film was heavily dependent on culture-clash jokes, the sequel finds that these ageing middle-class British characters have made themselves at home. As a result, the contrast between them and their surroundings is not as heightened.
With its combination of gentle humour and the perspective and wisdom of age, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is undemanding, sit-back-and-relax viewing. The multiple subplots are largely very predictable, but still enjoyable. The most negative aspect of this highly sentimental film it is lacks a bit of the light and shade that, during the first instalment, was provided by Tom Wilkinson’s mournful story.
In a cast of familiar faces, it is Downton Abbey’s Smith who stars. The sequel transfers narrator duties from Dench’s Evelyn to Smith’s Mrs Donnelly and, as such, the film feels more like her story. Her tongue is as sharp — and blunt — as ever, even if she has softened a bit, with her obvious affection for Sonny and the hotel.
Ultimately, this is a sequel that doesn’t attempt to convince anyone who isn’t already in love with the first Marigold outing. Light-hearted and fun, it is more of the same, a successful replication. If you enjoyed the first film, you are sure to get a kick out of the second.