The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: British Sequel Heavy on Charm, Short on Cohesion
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The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the follow-up to its slightly more superior 2012’s sleeper-hit predecessor, is in fact – if we really must go there – the second-best of the two. Once again directed by John Madden – see Shakespeare in Love – and scripted by Ol Parker, there seems to be enough material and fresh new drama to keep you genuinely invested and keen on this quirky and colourful but, seemingly overblown sequel.
Picking up more or less where the first film left off, the story is once again centred on the workings of the Best Exotic Marigold – a pleasant and a charming hotel for the elderly located in Jaipur, India – and a group of British retirees who have now become its more permanent residents.
Following the hotel’s success, its ever so slightly over-enthusiastic manager, Sonny (Patel), and snarky long-term tenant and new partner, Muriel (Smith), are looking to expand the business by reaching out to an American company – represented by Ty Burley (Strathairn) – which will hopefully offer the financial support they need to build a second hotel – all while Sonny prepares to wed fiancée, Sunaina.
Meanwhile, Madge (Imrie) is still busy looking for love by seducing various suitors, while Douglas is trying to find a way to profess his love to Evelyn (Dench) who has since picked up a full-time job as a textiles buyer. In the meantime, Norman (Pickup) is suspicious and thinks that his girlfriend, Carol (Hardcastle), is seeing someone else, while the arrival of the mysterious Guy Chambers (Gere) has Sonny in somewhat of a tizzy.
One of the main reasons behind the success of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel actually is its undeniably talented and charming ensemble cast who once again that personality and charisma goes a long way and, luckily, there is plenty of the two to go around. Everyone seems to be game and, although Patel seems to have dialled-down his over the top energy, he is still the weakest character while the effervescent Maggie Smith is again the glue that holds it all together.
Love, death, fear of commitment and haunting pasts are at the heart of it all and, although some of the story threads are genuinely interesting to follow, there is too many of them to keep up with. Nonetheless, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel oozes an intangible charm that makes it easier to forgive its failings. Let’s just hope there isn’t a third Exotic Marigold Hotel in the works.