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The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (A Movie Review)

Updated: Apr 10, 2020

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel


Starring Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup, David Strathairn, Richard Gere, Diana Hardcastle, Tamsin Greig, Tena Desae, Lillete Dubey and Subhrajyoti Barat.

Screenplay by Ol Parker.

Directed by John Madden.

Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures.  122 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

I know that it was not intended this way, but the film title The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is sadly extremely apt.  I understand that the filmmakers were just trying to come up with a cutesy way of pointing out this is indeed a sequel, however the cold hard fact is that everything about this new movie is, indeed, second best.

The original The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was a surprise hit a few years ago, a story of several bored British retirees finding a new life and purpose in India.  It was a sweet, unexpected story, and definitely tailored for an underserved demographic, ending up taking in an astonishing $137 million dollars worldwide – pretty impressive for a film starring mostly elderly British actors which was filmed for about $10 million.

That kind of success can only mean one thing – sequel – so it is no surprise that the follow-up is arriving three years later.  Sadly, they did not take into account that the original film pretty much told all the story that it needed to tell.  The second film does not so much feel like a continuation of the original story so much as a repeat, without the freshness and verve of the first go around.

Which is not to say that The Second Best Marigold Hotel is a bad film, it’s just not much you haven’t already seen in the first, and the few added parts – a wedding, a few unnecessary extended Bollywood musical numbers and a brief trip to San Diego – don’t add that much.

There have been three years between films, though it does not say exactly how much time has passed in the film’s world.  (It tends to seem to be less than three years, though.)  The main characters are pretty much holdovers from the first film, with some new characters mixed in.  (Also, arguably the first film’s most interesting character, played by Tom Wilkinson, died in the first film, and is not even mentioned in passing in this second go-around.)

In the second film, exuberant hotelier Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) has made the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel a success with the help of dour British matron Mrs. Donnelly (Maggie Smith).  They want to open a second, bigger, more luxurious hotel with the help of an American hotel chain, therefore they fly to San Diego to meet with the CEO (David Strathairn).  They come back to India, expecting a hotel inspector to show up at any time.  In the meantime, Sonny must juggle the plans for the new hotel, his upcoming nuptials with his unnaturally patient fiancée (Tena Desae) and the sudden appearance of his handsome nemesis (Shazad Latif) and Sonny’s disapproving mother (Lilette Dubey).

Even though Douglas (Bill Nighy) left his wife to be with Evelyn (Judi Dench) at the end of the last film, they still haven’t quite gotten together, leaving them to rerun the whole “will-they-or-won’t-they” dance that they played out last time out.  Douglas’ ex-wife (Penelope Wilton) returns to India get a divorce, but they can’t agree on a reason for the split.

Marge (Celia Imrie), the local cougar, has two local men fighting for her hand, but she can’t decide if she is interested in either man.  The two terminally playing the field types (Ronald Pickup and Diana Hardcastle) try to decide if it is worth it to give monogamy a try.

New guests include an American wannabe novelist (Richard Gere) with eyes for Sonny’s mom and a British woman (Tamsin Greig) looking into the hotel for her mom.  Richard Gere, who is in his mid-sixties, still sticks out as awfully young to be in a film about the romantic travails of eightyish Dame Judi Dench and Dame Maggie Smith.  (Then again, so are Bill Nighy and David Strathairn.)

The film shows older people finding new purpose in life and living in exotic locations, which is entertaining enough.  It probably would seem a lot better if we hadn’t seen pretty much the same thing a few years ago.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2015 All rights reserved. Posted: April 5, 2015.

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