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Review: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015)

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015)

Directed by: John Madden

Premise: A sequel to the 2011 film. Set a few months after its predecessor, most of the aged British tenants of the Marigold Hotel remain. Sonny (Dev Patel) attempts to purchase an additional hotel while planning his wedding. 

What Works: Like the original Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the primary strength of the sequel is the relationship between the tenants. Most of the core cast of the first film returns for the follow up and they are still very likable characters. The central relationship of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel occurs between Sonny, the proprietor of the hotel played by Dev Patel, and Muriel, the hotel’s bookkeeper, played by Maggie Smith. The contrast between Sonny’s earnestness and high energy and his mentor’s abrasiveness makes them an amusing pair and offers opportunities for humor. That is the one redeeming quality of this film. The banter between the characters regularly features witty exchanges and one-liners. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel also injects some new complications, at least in terms of Sonny’s story. The first film was primarily about Sonny establishing his business and solidifying his relationship with the woman he loves. The sequel is about what happens next and for Sonny that means the expansion of his business as well as marriage. In terms of Sonny’s story, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel complicates those subplots with Sonny’s business and nuptial adventures getting in the way of each other.

What Doesn’t: The problem with The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is that on the whole the story is underwritten and the filmmakers are unable to recapture the charm of the first film. The sequel is too light. The first movie was fun but it had something weighty at its core; a disparate group of people came halfway around the world and found a new sense of purpose to their lives. The sequel does not have anything as interesting going on. A lot of that is due to the failure to give the characters anything worthwhile to do. Dev Patel and Maggie Smith have a subplot that gives the movie a through line but the rest of the cast has nothing to do. At the end of the original Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Bill Nighy’s character split up with his harpy of a wife, freeing him to pursue his relationship with another traveler played by Judi Dench. But at the opening of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel things between them haven’t progressed at all and their subplot keep circling the same material throughout the sequel. In the first film Nighy and Dench’s characters had someone keeping them apart but in the follow up there’s nothing stopping them from getting together. Worse is the love story of Celia Imrie’s character. She courts two wealthy men but here again there is no tension in those relationships and at the end of the movie her story veers into a new direction that is not credible at all. But really troubling is the relationship between Sonny’s mother, played by Lillete Dubey, and a new tenant played by Richard Gere. Sonny believes that Gere’s character is there to evaluate the hotel on behalf of a potential investor and when this mysterious man expresses an interest in the mother, Sonny essentially instructs his mother to do whatever she must to make him happy. It’s a rather creepy subplot that undermines one of the strengths of the previous film. The original Best Exotic Marigold Hotel evaded the shallow and exploitative qualities of travelogues like Eat Pray Love by showing a mutual respect between the British retirees and Indian culture. That’s not so true in the sequel and there is a layer of colonialism underlying this movie.

Bottom Line: The audience that responded to the original Best Exotic Marigold Hotel will probably like the sequel if only to revisit the characters. But this is a shallow and uninspired follow up to the first picture.

Episode: #535 (March 29, 2015)