The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Movie Review
Guest review by Karen Samdahl (B+)
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a welcome antidote to the grit and grim of 2014’s Oscar nominees—in themselves all fine movies, but mostly of a dark and serious nature. So now that spring is around the corner (for some of us), let’s take the opportunity to lighten up and infuse our lives with some joie de vivre, or if you prefer your comments in plain English, joyful living.
The youth and optimism of Sonny Kapoor, owner and manager of The [First] Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and Sunaina, his beautiful assistant and fiancée, play in counterpoint to the quieter rhythms of the senior residents of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. It is this contrast between the exuberance of youth, mirrored by the colorful, energetic country of India as setting, and the gentle humor, wit and wisdom of the aged that made the first Best Marigold Hotel work so well the first time around, that works so well.
Director John Madden must juggle at least seven ongoing dramas while meshing the joy and color of Bollywood with the subtleties of British comedy. He does this seamlessly. Imagine a British country cloak of tweed with flashes of crimson lining to brighten the day. The first Best Exotic Marigold Hotel film emphasized the transition of a group of elderly retirees adapting to a new and very foreign land, and the younger characters were somewhat more in the background. In this second film there is a greater balance between the simultaneous dramas of the youth and the aged. Sonny is facing two major challenges: the need to expand his hotel system because the first hotel is almost full with “permanent” residents (‘until they go to higher places’), and the arrival of a possible rival for Sunaina’s affection. Almost all the dramas of the elder residents revolve around romance and relationships. The dramas of both young and old have one thing in common: they speak of new beginnings.
There are some new faces in this film, the major one being Richard Gere. Has he come to the hotel to, as he says, write a novel, or as Sonny believes, as a hotel inspector? I would have liked to see Gere’s character play a more comedic role than he does, and the development of his relationship with Sonny’s widowed mother is a bit rushed. Still, he is an attractive addition to the cast with potential if more sequels follow.
My top five reasons that you should see this film are:
- To gather the pearls of wisdom seeded throughout the film
- To enjoy the caustic wit of Mrs. Donnelly played so superbly by Maggie Smith.
- To watch in admiration the nuanced performances of talented actors and actresses, in particular Maggie Smith, Judy Dench, Celia Imre, and Bill Nighy.
- To partake of the exotic country that is India.
- To receive a dose of optimism and good cheer inspired by the vivacious performances of the talented Dev Patel and Tina Desai.
Do you need to have seen the first Best Exotic Marigold Hotel to enjoy this sequel? No. However, if you have the opportunity to see the first film before seeing the second, I recommend it because you will not have to spend needless energy to figure out who everyone is nor what has happened in their lives to bring them to India. You have more of a sense of coming back to a warm and welcoming place. If you do not have time to see the first before going to the second, don’t sweat it.
Without doubt, the prime audience for this film are going to be Baby Boomers and older, but because of the strong storyline of with Sonny and Sunaina, younger generations should also find plenty to enjoy in this film. And who knows, we may find that the older generation still has something to teach us after all.
Just two humorous asides: I found it ironic to discover Richard Gere cast in this film set in India after his notorious kiss of an Indian actress during an award ceremony that for a while made him persona non grata amongst the more conservative folk of India. The second, the elderly character who is an inveterate womanizer in this film is played by an actor named Ronald Pickup! Is that perfect casting?
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.