Film review: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 March, 2015, 10:50pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 April, 2015, 12:27pm

Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Richard Gere
Director: John Madden
Category: IIA

This genteel effort plays like a television sequel to 2011 surprise hit The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Director John Madden offers no introduction to the many characters, and no back story, so those who haven't seen the original will find it confusing. But fans will enjoy a similar hotchpotch of middlebrow humour, platitudes, shenanigans, and vaguely exotic Indian locations.

The titular hotel is an institution in Jaipur, which serves as a de facto retirement home for ageing Brits seeking a cheap way to retire, or looking for a bit of adventure in later life. The venerable cast includes Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Ronald Pickup and Penelope Wilton, all of whom seem to be having fun in their roles.

The second instalment's slim storyline revolves around the efforts of hotel owner Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) to buy new premises to expand the now fully booked hotel. But the story is just an excuse for some light-hearted romantic adventures.

Romantic comedies, of which this is an oldies version, often suffer from being too slick, but here it's the reverse — the direction, and even the editing, are bumpy, and could have done with more finesse. Characters and plot are of the tried and tested variety, and the weaving storylines are very predictable, although still enjoyable.

It's certainly fun to see Smith delivering a salty version of her Downton Abbey character, trading barbs with Dench, who proves more than a match for her. Meanwhile, fellow Downton Abbey stalwart Wilton adds some cut-and-thrust with her feisty portrayal of a returning wife bent on divorcing her husband (Nighy). But despite all the British talent, it's Richard Gere's thoughtful Romeo character that lights up the screen.

The Second Best Marigold Hotel is certainly hammy, but it's still encouraging to see a film that aims for an audience that's over 30 — and one that shows old age doesn't have to mean giving up on career, life, and love.

The Second Best Marigold Hotel opens on March 19