Synopsis: Now that The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is full up with its long-term residents, co-managers Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith) and Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) have a dream of expansion, and they’ve found just the place: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. With plans underway, Evelyn and Douglas (Judi Dench and Bill Nighy) venture into the Jaipur workforce, wondering where their regular breakfast dates will lead. Meanwhile, Norman and Carol (Ronald Pickup and Diana Hardcastle) navigate the swirling waters of an exclusive relationship, as Madge (Celia Imrie) juggles two very eligible suitors, and recent arrival Guy Chambers (Richard Gere) finds a muse in Sonny’s mother, Mrs. Kapoor (Lillete Dubey) for his next novel. As his marriage to Sunaina (Tina Desai), the love of his life, quickly approaches, Sonny finds his plans for the new hotel making more claims on his time than he has available. Perhaps the only one who may know the answers is Muriel, the keeper of everyone’s secrets. As the big day nears, family and guests alike find themselves swept up in the irresistible intoxication of an Indian wedding.
Release Date: March 6, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Getting the band back together again, so to speak, is a tricky proposition for a number of reasons in the movie business. In some cases there’s a fear the spark might have been lost in the interim, while in others there may be questions about audience interest. For The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – the surprise hit of 2011 – any success its follow-up, the appropriately titled The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, might have is gravy. With such a lauded cast, there was no doubt that a sequel would have a potential audience, but whether or not it would be as enjoyable as the first film was up for debate.
Luckily, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel doesn’t do much to shake up its formula. It still focuses on the original ensemble of elderly residents – among them Judi Dench’s Evelyn, Bill Nighy’s Douglas, and Maggie Smith’a Muriel – who have found a second life in India. They, along with hotel owner Sonny (Dev Patel, reprising his role from the first film, and more recently, Chappie), have actually flourished while at the Marigold Hotel, but it’s time to chart new chapters. For some that means finding romance again, while for others it means coming to terms with what they want, and for Sonny it means an expansion into a new hotel. Of course, getting from point A to point B is easier said than done, and so for the residents and employees of the Marigold that means a few speed bumps.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has no qualms about who its key demographic is, and is all the better because of it. By delivering mature, albeit sometimes goofy, storylines geared around an older generation, the film succeeds in being original and engaging. Its characters feel like mostly real human beings and they tackle problems that are universal regardless of age or location.
And wow, what a location. India is once again on display in full force, bursting with color, character, and more culture than could ever be packed into a single 2-hour film. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel smartly keeps the focus on its ensemble, but its use of India as a backdrop for their hijinks, romances, and drama puts things in a new perspective.
Yes, the core storyline involving Douglas and Evelyn’s will-they-won’t-they relationship has a touch of familiarity, but in this context it still feels somewhat unique. The only real gripe to be had is the depiction of Dev Patel’s Sonny, who plays a fast-talking young Indian entrepreneur with a little too much slapstick. He’s funny enough, but this second film transforms him into too much of a goofball, which in turn makes his storylines and motivations a little less believable. There’s a particular plotline involving Richard Gere and a case of mistaken identity that teeters on the brink of being cringe-worthy. In that instance the humor is so on the nose that it actually feels pulled from a different movie, one meant for kids and not adults.
Overall, though, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel packs enough heart to be worth a recommendation, especially to those who enjoyed the first film. Its humor may lean a little more towards juvenile than expected, but the strong ensemble continues to knock nearly every scene out of the park, regardless of whether it’s believable or not. Sure, the story beats are completely obvious, but the journey and the Indian destination are enough to make the effort worthwhile. If you enjoyed your first stay at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, it’s time to book a second reservation.
Like the first film, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel features a top tier cast of British acting royalty, from Maggie Smith to Judi Dench to Bill Nighy. This time around the film injects an American into its ensemble with Richard Gere, but the main focus is still the handful of elder Brits. As one might expect, that experience has helped these actors tackle mature themes with subtlety, nuance, and a strong eye for timing. They may occasionally be dealing with silly plot points, but the actors do well to make their performances believable throughout.
More importantly, it’s such a joy to watch these celebrated British actors work with each other once again, if only because they appear to have such chemistry. Whether the recipe calls for comedy, heart, or some combination of the two, the ensemble delivers, and there’s not a single weak link in the bunch.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): John Madden
- Screenwriter(s): Ol Parker
- Cast: Dev Patel (Sonny Kapoor)Maggie Smith (Muriel Donnelly)David Strathairn (Ty Burley) Judi Dench (Evelyn Greenslade)Bill Nighy (Douglas Ainslie)Celia Imrie (Madge Hardcastle)Ronald Pickup (Norman Cousins)Diana Hardcastle (Carol Parr)Lillete Dubey (Mrs. Kapoor)Richard Gere (Guy Chambers)
- Cinematographer: Ben Smithard
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- Music Score: Thomas Newman
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