The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – Film Review
Director: John Madden
Cast: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Richard Gere
by Jen Grimble
Despite mediocre reviews The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel became one of the UK’s highest grossing movies of 2012. So no surprise that John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) once again takes the directorial reins, as the hotel reopens its doors. With British acting royalty intact and that same sprinkling of nostalgic romanticism, the sequel gently progresses the original story. Richard Gere adds a touch of ‘Hollywood’ to a plot with a stronger purpose than its predecessor. In fact, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, is a better all-round film than the original.
The films, based on Deborah Moggach’s novel These Foolish Things, explore the journey of a group of British retirees. For numerous reasons, they settle down in Jaipur. The usual comedy suspects are there; a cougar on the hunt for a man; a widow who accidentally finds new love; and a spinster with a prejudicial outlook. Somehow, this bunch of stereotypes makes for rather pleasant watching.
Second time around Madden has no book to rely on. But co-written with Ol Parker (Now Is Good), the pair manage to create a far more convincing story. Things are almost the same with only a few months time since the original’s end. As comical touches, Madge (Celia Imrie) is torn between two lovers, and Jean (Penelope Wilton) seeks divorce from Douglas (Bill Nighy), who in turn is totally smitten with Evelyn (Judi Dench).
“Undoubted feel-good factor”
For tension purposes, Sonny (Dev Patel) and Sunaina (Tina Desai) plan their wedding. But an old family friend looks set to ruin everything. The main underpinning story however, is the possible expansion of the run-down hotel. Sonny hopes to gain financial backing from an American stakeholder. But before the company will invest, they wish to send an undercover inspector to the hotel. Enter Guy (Richard Gere) and Lavinia (Tamsin Greig). Sonny, assuming he knows exactly who the inspector is, begins his usual erratic and hilarious attempts at customer service.
The rest is a little predictable but, obvious ending aside, Madden pulls off his comedy sequel. This is mainly down to the strength of the stellar cast. They manage to give depth to characters that could otherwise appear one-dimensional. Dev Patel stands out amongst a troupe of icons. His enchanting performance making him an essential addition. For this, and for the sheer amusement of it all, Madden creates a surprisingly viable franchise. Plus, there’s an open ending that hints there could well be a third instalment.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a true exploration of the Golden Years. Though perhaps it is not one that many of us recognise. The plot may not be spectacular but it is at least distinctive. Its inoffensive lightness provides an undoubted feel-good factor. With one of the best British ensemble casts of the decade, Madden’s sequel is alive with more colour and sentimentality than its predecessor. It makes The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel an instant British classic that is trivial but enjoyable in equal measure.