Wednesday, 25 February 2015


20th Century Fox Films

If you enjoyed your first stay at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, then there is no reason why you shouldn't check-in for a second time. The same guests from the 2012 hit are back -- Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy -- and Richard Gere has also booked what passes for a suite in this refurbished Indian hotel for those in their twilight of years (though not the twilight of these old pros' careers).

But as with many a sequel, lightning fails to strike twice. Not that Marigold 2 is a bad film, more a pale imitation of its predecessor. Like returning to a vacation spot filled with wonderful memories, everything is more or less the same but that sense of magic is no longer there.

There's also the spectre of death hanging over John Madden's film which is not to be unexpected in story populated by post-retirement ex-pats in Jaipur, India. What is a little more unexpected -- perhaps more so for younger viewers tagging along with the parentals or grandparents -- is the saltiness of the conversations and the amount of geriatric sex (all off-screen, of course). Fifty shades of grey, indeed.

So while ambitious local hotelier, Sonny (Dev Patel), and his fiance, Sunaina (Tina Desai), try to keep their cool and their heads in the lead-up to their wedding -- complicated somewhat by Sonny's trying to impress whom he believes to be a hotel inspector, Guy Chambers (Gere), sent by a possible American investor -- the residents of the Marigold are dealing with matters of the heart. And the bedroom.

Evelyn (Dench) and Douglas (Nighy) are obviously meant to be together but her new job as a procurer of textiles for a garment operation, and his general nervous-nelly ways have failed to see their seemingly inevitable relationship consummated. Even Douglas's wife Jean (Penelope Wilton), who returns to Jaipur seeking a divorce, is a little surprised she can't invoke adultery as legitimate grounds.

Meanwhile, the randy ladies man, Norman (Ronald Pickup), seems to have found love with Carol (Diana Hardcastle) but can't decide if monogamy is a blessing or a curse, while his business partner at the Viceroy Club, the equally-randy Madge (Celia Imrie), is torn between two wealthy local suitors.

And then there's Maggie Smith's Muriel, who may not have any interest in romantic shenanigans but who reminds everyone that when it comes to brutal honesty, she's the grandmother of them all. A redeemed bigot in the first film, Marigold 2 finds Muriel overseeing the hotel's operations but planning for a time when she may no longer be around.

Regardless of the strength of the material (Ol Parker once again fulfills script duties), it's a delight to see an old pro like Smith reveling in it all and with seemingly little effort. The same goes for the rest of the veteran cast who make the film an amiable delight, even if The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel does linger a little too long beyond an appropriate check-out time.

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