×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’

Set to earn heaps of fresh gold from the silver set, this amiable reunion centers on Maggie Smith and Dev Patel's plans to expand their outsourced retirement home.

With:
Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup, Tina Desai, Diana Hardcastle. Lillete Dubey, Tamsin Greig, Shazad Latif, David Strathairn, Richard Gere.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2555736/

Roughly midway through “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” a lovesick Bill Nighy notes that Judi Dench’s character has “checked out,” referring of course to her status at the hotel. Still, the pun hangs in the air, suggesting a possible euphemism for a more permanent condition. The imminence of death serves as a source of both comedy and poignant self-reflection in this spirited sequel to the unexpected 2012 success, assembled hastily enough that none of its ensemble had a chance to “check out” before they could all cash in, hoping to duplicate the original’s $46 million haul (nearly twice as much abroad).

If the first “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” was all about seeking rest and relaxation half a world away in India, then its relatively hectic successor finds the entire ensemble hustling jobs in Jaipur: Douglas (Nighy) gives tours of sites about which he knows precious little; Madge (Celia Imrie) and Norman (Ronald Pickup) tend bar at the expats’ club; Evelyn (Dench) hunts for exotic fabrics; and Muriel (Maggie Smith) co-manages the establishment, which has been such a success that its ambitious — and newly engaged — owner, Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel), is looking to expand.

All this busyness is good for business, though it makes for a rather high-stress retirement, as no one seems to be taking advantage of the fact they made the move to escape the grind. Though his original hotel is still something of a shambles, Sonny has ambitions to buy a neighboring property and fix it up, too, but for that he’ll need the financial backing of Evergreen, a U.S.-based retirement company managed by a visionary investor (David Strathairn) whose philosophy, “Leaves don’t need to fall,” may as well be the mantra of all the hotel’s overworked residents.

Deferred retirements aside, they’ve never been happier — which is a curious place to begin for a film that must then manufacture inconsequential misunderstandings and easily resolved conflicts in order to justify another two hours spent in the company of its generally affable ensemble. Even Smith, so wickedly pungent in our memories, seems to have warmed this time around: Nineteen days older than Dench both onscreen and in real life, she’s the character we can’t bear to live without — a fact that director John Madden and screenwriter Ol Parker (both back from the original) clearly calculated when shifting the narration duties over from Dench to Smith. She opens and closes the film, sitting there like a fresh-cut onion, making you question whether that mistiness you feel is real or some well-calculated chemical reaction — in much the same way Thomas Newman’s score works, elbowing its way in to boost the energy at any moment we might want to catch our breath, while also supporting two full-blown Bollywood-style dance numbers.

Actually, if the filmmakers have a secret weapon, it would be the addition of Richard Gere, who can weaken the knees of a certain demographic faster than you can say “osteoporosis.” Here, the silver fox shows up at the hotel so soon after Strathairn’s character indicates he’ll be sending an inspector that Sonny can’t help but see through the man’s cover story. Buzzing with ambition, Sonny all but ignores his fiancee (Tina Desai) as he trips over himself trying to impress his distinguished guest, even going so far as to thrust his own mother (Lillete Dubey) into the stranger’s arms, if it would sweeten the deal.

Considering that the vast majority of audiences for the original came to see the venerable British cast — all of whom except Dench appeared in the Harry Potter movies — it’s rather too much to ask that they invest so much interest in Sonny’s entrepreneurial aspirations this time around. He’s making beginner’s mistakes, whereas the rest of the ensemble possess the life experience to make their respective quandaries a bit more interesting.

For example, after all these years, Norman has finally found a woman (Diana Hardcastle) who makes him want to settle down and be monogamous, only to discover that she appears to have other ideas about exclusivity. And, of course, there’s the ongoing do-si-do between Evelyn and Douglas, still unconsummated, which the film stretches as far as humanly possible, invoking her lingering feelings toward her dead husband and the unfinished business between him and his ex. (Penelope Wilton couldn’t resist returning, so Parker wrote her into the sequel.)

It’s not so common to find an ensemble of this caliber so enthusiastic to work together, and that chemistry comes across — not so much in the romantic pairings, which Parker rather implausibly constructs so that no one goes home alone (even Sonny’s wedding choreographer finds a mate). Rather, whatever spark exists off-camera can’t help but reveal itself during those irreverent, potentially insensitive moments that made the original so much fun. Even the great Smith isn’t a good enough actress to hide the clear pleasure she takes from zinging an old friend with a line like, “Just because I’m looking at you when you talk, don’t think I’m listening — or even interested.”

For a film conceived without any chance of a sequel in mind, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” actually lends itself surprisingly well to being extended, mostly because the cast make their characters so lively, we’re happy for the chance to spend more time with them (the kind of sentence to which the movie can’t seem to resist tacking on a gratuitous “before they die”). The laughs aren’t as numerous this time around, but at least they’re a little less obvious.

Overall, that seems to have been Madden and Parker’s goal: to defy — or at least delay — whatever expectations fans thought they saw coming. Hence Sonny’s decision to expand his operation, as opposed to the more cliched (and almost certainly more compelling) alternative, wherein some competitor might try to strong-arm them into selling the hotel. So, Parker attempts to spin a few surprises that audiences wouldn’t have immediately come up with on their own, while Madden can be relied upon to keep it all moving swiftly enough that we actually get caught up in their fairly trivial concerns — like the right way to serve a cup of tea. So, whether or not the film is to your taste, its creators have tried to do right by the original, brainstorming a plot deserving of a sequel before constructing another “Exotic Marigold Hotel” that’s hardly second-best.

Film Review: 'The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'

Reviewed at Fox screening room, London, Feb. 17, 2015. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 122 MIN.

Production: A Fox Searchlight release and presentation, in association with Participant Media, Image Nation Abu Dhabi, of a Blueprint Pictures production. Produced by Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin. Executive producers, Jeff Skoll, Jonathan King, John Madden, Michael Dreyer. Co-producer, Pravesh Sahni.

Crew: Directed by John Madden. Screenplay, Ol Parker; story, Parker, Madden, based on characters created in Deborah Moggach’s novel. Camera (color, widescreen), Ben Smithard; editor, Victoria Boydell; music, Thomas Newman; production designer, Martin Childs; supervising art director, James Wakefield; art director, Dilip More; set decorators, Ed Turner, Swapnali Das; costume designer, Louise Stjernsward; sound (Dolby Digital), Nakul Kamte; supervising sound editor, Ian Wilson; supervising re-recording mixer, Tim Cavagin; re-recording mixer, Craig Irving; visual effects supervisor, Tom Proctor; visual effects, Double Negative; associate producer, Tabrez Noorani; assistant directors, George Walker, Udayan Baijal; casting, Michelle Guish, Seher Latif.

With: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup, Tina Desai, Diana Hardcastle. Lillete Dubey, Tamsin Greig, Shazad Latif, David Strathairn, Richard Gere.

More Film

  • FilmNation logo

    FilmNation Promotes Ashley Fox, Brad Zimmerman to SVP of Production (EXCLUSIVE)

    FilmNation Entertainment, the independent studio behind “Arrival” and “Room,” has promoted Ashley Fox and Brad Zimmerman to senior VPs of production. The pair will source and develop material that can be transformed into movies and will oversee film productions on behalf of the company. They will continue to report to Ben Browning, FilmNation’s president of [...]

  • Chinese artist Ai Weiwei poses after

    Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei Accuses 'I Love You, Berlin' Producers of Censorship

    The executive producer of anthology film “Berlin, I Love You” is engaged in a war of words with Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, whose contribution to the movie was left on the cutting-room floor. Ai contends that the segment he shot for “Berlin, I Love You” was axed by the producers for political reasons, out [...]

  • Oscars Nominees Popular Movies

    Oscar Best Picture Race Dominated by Box Office Winners

    This year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ ill-fated popular film Oscar category could have just as easily been dubbed “best picture.” That’s because the crop of movies vying to take home the top prize represents the highest-grossing group of best picture nominees in nearly a decade. The eight films in the category [...]

  • Isabela Moner Marcel Ruiz Rosa Salazar

    Variety Announces 10 Latinxs to Watch 2019

    Variety has announced this year’s 10 Latinxs to Watch, and has also selected the Miami Film Festival as a partner for the annual celebration of promising talent in the Latino community that will include a panel and film screenings. This year’s honorees are Isabela Moner (“Dora the Explorer”), Rosa Salazar (“Alita: Battle Angel,” “Bird Box”), [...]

  • New Regency Launches U.K.-Based International TV

    New Regency Launches International TV Division With Scott Free Alum Ed Rubin

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” co-producer New Regency has launched a London-based international TV division, recruiting former Scott Free exec Ed Rubin to run the new operation and hiring Emma Broughton from The Ink Factory (“The Night Manager”) as head of scripted. New Regency produced “The Revenant,” “12 Years a Slave” and “Birdman.” It recently opened up shop [...]

  • Kate Bosworth'Nona' film premiere, New York,

    Kate Bosworth Helps Launch Campaign for Female Filmmakers

    In her 20-year career in Hollywood, Kate Bosworth has starred in blockbusters like “Superman Returns” as well as indie darlings like 2014’s “Still Alice.” But the actress has always had a desire to get more involved from the ground up. Now, she is partnering with Women In Film and Chloe Wine Collection to launch the [...]

  • Black Panther

    'Black Panther,' 'Crazy Rich Asians,' 'Westworld' Among Costume Designers Guild Winners

    “Crazy Rich Asians,” “The Favourite” and “Black Panther” walked away with top honors at the 21st annual Costume Designers Guild Awards Tuesday night, the final industry guild show before the Oscars on Feb. 24. “The Favourite” and “Black Panther” are up for the Oscar this year, along with “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” “Mary Poppins [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content