The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Starring Maggie Smith, Dev Patel, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Richard Gere, Diana Hardcastle,
Director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) and the cast who survived the first film return to India to once again check into the Marigold Hotel. “Why die here when you can die there,” says hotel co-owner Muriel Donnelly played by Oscar winner Maggie Smith (Downton Abby, Harry Potter). It’s Smith’s charm and wit that keeps the unnecessary sequel alive. Without adding any new dimension to the existing plot line, the story picks up where it left off, sprinkling in new faces like 64-year-old Richard Gere and David Strathairn, both silver haired and popular with the ladies. In the original film from 2011, Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) was frantically trying to build up his hotel, distance himself from his mother and marry the girl, it’s a repetitious character arc for his character.
Sonny Kapoor (Patel) and his unlikely partner Donnelly (Smith) head to San Diego to proposition a large hotel chain for the money needed to open The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Renovations are mostly complete on the original hotel for the twilight generation, with the same familiar faces as residence. Each morning Sonny takes a role call to make sure no one “departed” in the middle of the night. However, their advancement with a new property will only happen if they can impress an undercover inspector from America. Sonny is convinced it’s Guy Chambers (Gere) one of two new guests, and goes to extreme lengths to make him feel comfortable.
Never breaks any new ground or gives a reason to exist.
Most of the subplots surrounding the main story feel more like distractions this time. Judi Dench is given very little to do, Gere hardly moves at all (until that final dance sequence) while everyone else shuffles to and fro without much character advancement. There are a lot of characters in this ensemble, but the script by returning screenwriter Ol Parker makes it very clear that Smith and Patel are the stars here as they get the majority of the screen time. The barbs traded between Smith and Dench are some of the best lines in the film they just don’t have as much interactions as we might like.
The film reiterates the theme of the original, ‘you are never too old for a new career, a new romance or another chance’. Tom Wilkinson’s charm is certainly missed in this one (although he is in a new ridiculous comedy opening opposite this film) but the film never breaks any new ground or gives a reason to exist. It’s still charming due to the actors, but it doesn’t spend as much time with celebrating Indian culture. One of the highlights of the first film was the acknowledgement that these characters were at the jumping off point and wasn’t afraid to explore their departing, this sequel is much more hesitant in writing off characters they might profit from in the third film.
Maggie Smith is the highlight of a rather lackluster sequel.