Movie Review: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
With a star-studded cast and the strong base set up by its prequel, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel appears promising from the get-go. However, it falls short of the mark.
This movie that appears to be about graceful aging and one’s twilight years is actually another typical rom-com. Except, it replaces flirtatious outfits and slapstick comedy with the well-to-do elderly and British humour.
Directed by John Madden, the film stars Dev Patel and Maggie Smith as the proprietors and managers of a retirement home, the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, set up in Jaipur, India whose main guests are British pensioners. Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup and Diana Hardcastle star as the regular inhabitants of the rustic establishment.
In order to provide better service and accommodation to his patrons, Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) arranges to meet an international hotel chain in hopes of getting them to invest in a new building for the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. This leads to the company sending a hotel inspector to see if Sonny’s business matches their corporate objectives.
Richard Gere and Tamsin Greig show up at the hotel as new guests and drama ensues as parties attempt to romance others, keep old flames burning and follow their dreams.
Many classic rom-com clichés return in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, now with more wrinkles and arthritis, with lines such as “Help me finish my book that’s actually my love life”.
Norman’s (Ronald Pickup) accidental hiring of an assassin to murder his girlfriend, Carol (Diana Hardcastle), is the only original plot arc in the movie. Even then, we doubt if that has never been done before.
It also has problems with pacing and has far too many characters, to the extent that some are not properly fleshed out, with their plot arcs being skimmed over. For instance, Madge Hardcastle’s (Celia Imrie) salacious love triangle between 2 fabric businessmen is a little skimpy.
Whilst the movie has a rather unoriginal aesthetic (Big Eyes had a similar look), it remains charming and quaint, with bright pastel colours and the sometimes garish shades of India alongside the desaturated tones of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
The unremarkable cinematography is also nothing to talk about. In fact, some transitions are jarring at best and saved only by the good mixing (by Thomas Newman) of the movie’s excellent soundtrack.
Putting aside the gallows humour of the hotel guests’ impending expiration, the writing, whilst not particularly smart, is witty, as we can expect from British comedy. Sample line from Sonny: “Mummy, it takes teamwork to make a dream work.”
Overall, it is a movie that, despite several boring stretches with little actual plot, is still enjoyable for its sharp wit, characters and the impeccable acting of its veteran cast. The genre of romantic comedy is an ageing one and it’s in need of reworking and reimagining. This literal ageing rom-com stands testament to this issue.
It’s certainly no blockbuster but this classy romance with some of film’s best veteran stars does what it does well. It captures the essence of aging, the fear of life becoming too mundane and the need to chase down whatever dreams are left before time runs out. It’s best summed up by Bill Nighy’s character, Douglas: “The worst thing about life is that it has so much potential” — a line that also applies to The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
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Release Date: Mar 19
Runtime: 123 minutes
Censorship Rating: PG
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director: John Madden
Main Actors: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Diana Hardcastle, Tamsin Greig, Tina Desai, Lillete Dubey with David Strathairn and Richard Gere
Photos courtesy of Warner Brothers.