The sequel to the 2012 sleeper hit The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel; The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has arrived, once again directed by John Madden and written by Ol Parker. We travel back to India where we join our returning cast of British old timers seeking enlightenment in their golden years: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, and Dev Patel are joined by newcomers Richard Gere and David Strathairn. It’s more of the same heart and fun from the first movie, continuing with another journey with this great cast.
This time around we see that all of our intrepid British travellers have stayed on at the Marigold Hotel. Each is happy and doing their own thing as they settle into retirement. Sonny (Dev Patel), the hotel owner, would like to expand his business into many hotels. He and Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith) have travelled to America to try and get backers for the expansion, but before Ty Burley (David Strathairn) gives them any money he wants to know how good of an investment he’s getting, and he tells Sonny and Muriel that he’ll send someone to check out the hotel.
Sonny and Muriel return to India to prepare for the inspector. As they begin to get their house in order, Sonny’s wedding to Sunaina (Tena Desae) must happen first. As the wedding plans take over Sonny’s life, he’s finding it hard to handle the wedding, the hotel, and the guests who have their own dramas that they can barely handle. Evelyn Greenslade (Judi Dench) is finding it difficult to express her feelings of love to Douglas Ainslie (Bill Nighy). Madge Hardcastle (Celia Imrie) is having trouble deciding between her two suitors. Norman Cousins (Ronald Pickup) thinks he may have accidently put a hit out on his current girlfriend, Carol (Diana Hardcastle). It’s just another average day at the Marigold Hotel.
Add in the drama of newcomer Guy Chambers (Richard Gere) who may be either the inspector Sonny is worried about, or a writer who is looking for a new lease on life. He is a mystery to Sonny and the hotel guests. Chambers is delighted and intrigued by the hotel and more so by Sonny’s mother, Mrs. Kapoor (Lillete Dubey), who is more than happy to play hard to get. Chambers falls in love with the country and the hotel but is not sure how that factors into his life.
The movie does a nice job of filling out these characters and making you care about each one of them. That is a testament to the writer and director of both films. Clearly they had love for this project and wanted it to be the best it could be. That can be seen in the way it is shot and written. A lot of care and time was put into it by all involved to make this a product they could be proud of. Each character is a full, breathing person with three dimensions. You fully understand each, and where they’re coming from. You hope that, when you reach their age, you also might have the guts to leave everything you know and move halfway across the world, throwing caution to the wind, and seeing what might happen next.
The movie pretty much picks up right after the first one, assuming that you have seen the first one, and understand who these characters are. Even if you haven’t, the movie does a pretty good job and catching you up. It’s also not so complicated of a plot that you can’t get it yourself. It’s a simple feel-good movie, filled with wonderful actors you enjoy watching, set against the beautiful and exotic location of India.
Steeped in tradition and culture, we get to peek inside an Indian wedding and see what type of cultural differences there are through the eyes of our British actors. We get to see the stress that Sonny is under, and how, just like most people, he doesn’t handle it well. But, with a strong hand and the stern voice of Maggie Smith, he overcomes all the obstacles, and becomes the man he needs to be. Of course. Pretty much everything you want to happen, does. And that’s how it should be. This is a movie that will make you laugh, cry, and reflect on your life and what you might need or want out of it.
Bottom-line: if you enjoyed the first one, you’re most likely going to enjoy this, and you should see it this weekend. If you’re looking for a small, simple, feel-good movie that puts a smile on your face, this is that movie. This is a great flick to take your mom or grandmother to. In a world filled with action flicks, gross-out comedies, and all those long, boring Oscars films, it’s nice to have a simple comedy come out that you can just enjoy without thinking too much. Sometimes we need films like these to keep us grounded and in touch with our feelings, and that’s not so bad.