The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is the expansionist dream of Sonny (Dev Patel), and it's making more claims on his time than he has available, considering his imminent marriage to the love of his life, Sunaina (Tina Desai). Sonny has his eye on a promising property now that his first venture, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful, has only a single remaining vacancy - posing a rooming predicament for fresh arrivals Guy (Richard Gere) and Lavinia (Tamsin Greig). Evelyn and Douglas (Judi Dench and Bill Nighy) have now joined the Jaipur workforce, and are wondering where their regular dates for Chilla pancakes will lead, while Norman and Carol (Ronald Pickup and Diana Hardcastle) are negotiating the tricky waters of an exclusive relationship, as Madge (Celia Imrie) juggles two eligible and very wealthy suitors. Perhaps the only one who may know the answers is newly installed co-manager of the hotel, Muriel (Maggie Smith), the keeper of everyone's secrets. As ...Written by
"The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is second to none.
It's never too late to love, to learn or to really LIVE your life – or too early. That was the message of the surprise British hit "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" in 2011, and that message is even more pronounced and entertaining in the 2015 follow-up, "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" (PG, 2:02). Now, pay attention, teenagers and 20-somethings. When I review a YA movie and it's good, I encourage older adults to keep an open mind and give the film a chance. Now it's the turn of all young adults reading my reviews to keep THEIR minds open
All the original cast is back for the sequel and with a few new veteran and younger actors joining them. The action picks up a few months after the story in the first film ended, with the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel doing well, and some of its mature long-term residents beginning or contemplating new romantic relationships and even jobs in their new hometown of Jaipur, India. But this film opens very differently than you'd expect: Sonny Kapur (Dev Patel) is speeding down Route 66 in a Mustang convertible with the top down – and ignoring the protestations of his passenger (and co-manager of the hotel back in India), Mrs. Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith). They're on their way to a business meeting with Ty Burley (David Strathairn), the head of a chain of extended-stay hotels that cater to the aged. The very polite and VERY enthusiastic Sonny and the very direct and very proper Mrs. Donnelly each do their part to pitch the idea of a (using a nice play on words) 2nd Best Exotic Marigold Hotel near the original. They have the customer demand, but they need investors to help them purchase a vacant hotel in town. Mr. Burley won't commit, but he does agree to send an incognito inspector in the near future. Very excited and mildly encouraged (respectively), Sonny and Mrs. Donnelly head home.
Back in Jaipur, there's much more going on with the residents and staff of the hotel than just expansion plans. There's romance in the air (as well as threats to romance), both for the 20-somethings and the 70-somethings and maybe one or two others in between. Sonny is working through wedding plans with his fiancé, Sunaina (Tina Desae), but feels threatened by old frenemy Kushal (Shazad Latif) who has been teaching Sunaina complicated dances for the engagement party and wedding. Randy old lothario Norman (Ronald Pickup – and, yes, ironically enough, that is his real name) alternately bemoans and appreciates having made the decision to be exclusive with live-in girlfriend Carol (Diana Hardcastle), who just may have a wandering eye of her own. Meanwhile, Madge (Celia Imrie), Norman's female equivalent in the group, is being courted by two wealthy Indian men, but wonders if she should be looking in still another direction for happiness. Evelyn (Judi Dench) and Douglas (Bill Nighy) seem to want to get together, but both are afraid to make a move – and things get even more complicated when Douglas' wife, Jean (Penelope Wilton), shows up to finalize their divorce – and with their daughter (Fiona Mollison) in tow.
Last, but certainly not least, Sonny is falling all over himself to impress a new guest named Guy Chambers (Richard Gere), who Sonny is convinced is the hotel inspector. But, much to Sonny's dismay, Guy mainly seems interested in getting to know Sonny's widowed mother (Lillette Dubey). (Eventually, Sonny feels compelled to set up a date between the two, selling Guy as "so handsome, he has me urgently questioning my own sexuality" – one of the many funny lines in the movie – but Sonny is getting married and his mother shows no interest in the suave stranger.) Meanwhile, Sonny is being consistently rude to another new guest, Lavinia Beach (Tamsin Greig), who tells him she's looking for a place for her elderly mother to live. The stress of all this STUFF is getting to Sonny and he begins making mistake after mistake, both in his personal relationships and in his business. But while he's working through all that, the hotel's residents are making mistakes of their own – and jeopardizing opportunities that may never come again. There's a lot going on here, but not in the too-difficult-to-follow way. More in the too-difficult-to-turn-away way. And as these subplots unfold, the story takes more twists and turns than a horse-drawn taxi racing through the busy streets of Jaipur.
"The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is an excellent movie that stands on its own merits, but is also everything that a sequel should be. The film builds on the appeal of the original – especially the simultaneous clashing and blending of cultures – and generations – but still stays fresh and relevant. The story stays true to its characters, takes their journey forward in natural and meaningful ways, and brings in new characters and new conflicts to shake things up. The script is creative, engaging, touching and funny. A lot of the laughs are aimed at the ages of the hotel's residents, but they're in on the joke – laughing with and at themselves and each other, while also saying and showing what lives well-lived are all about. The aging characters' everyday speech combines common doubts and struggles with wise words, reflecting a lifetime of experience, and carrying great lessons for any younger audience members who will make the effort to really listen. I found myself wishing that these characters could have their own TV series, but alas, what makes them appealing is exactly what makes my wish impossible – they really are quite old and vibrant and wise and fun and entirely relatable. I'll just have to do what we should all do with the elders in our lives – enjoy them while we have them – and give them the respect they deserve. For this group of actors and filmmakers and their film, that's an "A".
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