Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Directed by John Madden
Starring Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Richard Gere
Rating 3.5 /5
We are right back in sunny, colour saturated, fragrant India in the hotel for the “ageing and beautiful” and it feels so good. Sonny (Dev Patel) is in his kingdom and all is well as he rules benignly over a gaggle of English expats living out out their years. There is joy in the land and in our hearts because the Second film promises more of the great stuff we experienced first time around and it delivers.
Sonny (Patel) is of an entrepreneurial frame of mind again, looking to expand. His Brits have taken all the rooms but two at the Marigold and they are not leaving until God says so. There’s nice parcel of land with an ageing and beautiful hotel that he will fix up to be the second in a chain “stretching across India”.
A sublimely appealing part of the fun is the sensual feast of an exoticised urban India – the colours, the sounds and music, the fragrances – and smells – we can easily imagine. The ever buzzing street life, a drive to Mumbai, the nightlife is appealing and irresistible.
The haven that is the hotel steams along, under Sonny’s kind dictatorship. He does roll call each morning to make sure none of his guests have died. But he’s under the gun because he is about to be married, his fiancée’s extremely cute old friend has shown up and is competing with Sonny for that prime piece of real estate. And he thinks a hotel inspector is sniffing around, cue mishaps.
And who should show up at the gates but Richard Gere. While one of the ladies warns her ovaries to settle down, we are busy calculating all the ages of the characters to imagine the potential outcomes of this surprise arrival.
Maggie Smith’s transformation has held, but now she’s facing a tough truth. It’s such a treat to see her reunited with her Downton Abbey best friend Penelope Wilton. The two play off each other so well, a marriage of opposites finding a spicy common ground.
Douglas (Nighy) moons over Evelyn (Drench) she’s keen but cautious, and sends mixed signals, diminishing a flame that could add dimension to her life. She sees herself as a business woman – she is now a fabric buyer for a Pashmina company – but at heart is frightened of her feelings. Celia Imrie, the most overtly sexual of the bunch is weighing her multiple beaux and enjoying her hobby.
Madden’s filmmaking has always been of the crowd-pleasing sort like Shakespeare in Love and Mrs. Brown, as well as the underrated Ethan Frome. All the great beats are here, and the addition of a wedding seems generic but it is FUN. In closing, if you don’t like this film, you’ve given in to winter’s dark embrace. Buck up!