UK Release Date: 26th February 2015
Runtime: 122 minutes
Director: John Madden
Writer: Ol Parker
Starring: Bill Nighy, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Dev Patel, Tina Desae, Celia Imrie, Richard Gere, Tamsin Grieg, Ronald Pickup, Diana Hardcastle, Penelope Wilton
Synopsis: A hotel inspector visits the Marigold as Sonny looks to expand his enterprise and marry his fiancé.
In 2012, the notion of the “grey pound” in cinema was barely considered. That year, however, everything changed when British dramedy The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel became a sleeper hit, making well over $100m from a budget of only $10m. Suddenly, a huge wave of films were made for those in the twilight of their existence. Now, the wizened, old father of the trend is back with an equally charming sequel.
Sonny (Dev Patel) continues to run the Marigold Hotel, now under the assistance of Muriel (Maggie Smith). Attempting to plan his marriage to Sunaina (Tina Desae), Sonny must deal with two new guests (Richard Gere and Tamsin Grieg), whilst also expecting a hotel inspector. Meanwhile, Evelyn (Judi Dench) finds herself experiencing a new career opportunity, whilst Douglas (Bill Nighy) must manage his divorce from estranged wife Jean (Penelope Wilton).
Immediately, there’s an issue with The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in the fact that the book upon which the original film was based has no sequel. This leaves scriptwriter Ol Parker with the difficult job of finding something for all of the established characters to do, whilst also introducing enough new faces to keep it feeling fresh. Whilst Parker succeeds, the film does have something of an episodic feel that leads to the whole thing dragging on a little in its desperate attempt to tie up every loose thread.
| "The man has me urgently questioning my own masculinity."
The film gets by largely on the inherent charm of its central performers. The charming romance between Bill Nighy and Judi Dench continues to develop in this sequel, aided by Nighy’s wonderfully subtle performance as an ageing man with the romantic awkwardness of a teenager. Maggie Smith, too, is a likeable presence in the film, having shed much of the uncomfortable racism that made her character problematic in the original.
There’s also plenty to enjoy in the shape of Richard Gere and Tamsin Grieg as new members of the hotel’s guest roster. Gere, especially, enjoys flexing his charisma muscles and gets a number of the script’s best lines. Returning lead Dev Patel brings unbridled youthful enthusiasm to The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, sticking the whole thing together.
Despite the charm of the cast, though, there’s not quite enough to the film to justify its bloated running time and glacial narrative pace. There are lengthy periods of time in which the central plotlines are given very little attention, in favour of largely inconsequential tertiary narratives. These are often fun – such as in the case of Norman (Ronald Pickup) accidentally taking out a hit on his partner – but there’s little purpose for them in the grand scheme of the film.
| "You’re still in one slightly sagging piece, I see."
Overall, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a worthy sequel to the charming original movie. It has issues with pacing and struggles to manage its massive ensemble, but there’s a pleasant air to the whole thing which serves as a necessary antidote to the general crassness of Hollywood’s comedy output.
Pop or Poop?
With a central cast made up of British acting royalty, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is guaranteed to appeal to the same audience who made the first film such a big success.
The film is not perfect, suffering from limitations it brings upon itself, including a runtime that feels obscenely bloated by the time the film meanders to its conclusion.
But hard criticism is largely irrelevant here because, for this film, charm is the name of the game.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.