The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: Film Review
Cast: Dev Patel, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Judi Dench, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton, Richard Gere, Tamsin Greig
Director: John Madden
There was always going to be reservations about checking in for a second time to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
The OAP themed first outing was perhaps a massive success thanks to its gentle humour and the sum of its parts rather than its fresh and original idea. So, a second return visit would pose more of a challenge to fulfill the larger cast's dramatic ambitions and to welcome newcomers into the fold.
This time around, Sonny (an energetic Dev Patel) is trying to expand his hotel business while contemplating the finer details of marriage to his impending wife Sunaina. Meanwhile Evelyn and Douglas (Judi Dench and Bill Nighy) are part of the local workforce and wondering if their relationship is meant to be; Norman and Carol (Ronald Pickup and Diana Hardcastle) are looking at being exclusive and Madge (Celia Imrie) is facing a double hit of commitment; negotiating Sonny on his way is Muriel (Maggie Smith) who's now the co-owner of the hotel.
But problems arise when Sonny's potential investor sends an unknown hotel inspector to check them out at the same time as newcomers Guy (Richard Gere) and Lavinia (Tamsin Greig) show up... will the strain be too much?
To say The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a disappointment is perhaps an understatement and is also perhaps underselling a film which will be so popular with so many.
It feels incredibly lazily written, and despite being breezily directed in parts, it's overlong and unnecessarily drawn out.
Sure, there will be fans who'll lap up the gently predictable humour and react to moments where Muriel is asked by an American if her accent is Australian and watch as the second chance love story between Evelyn and Douglas evolves into a twilight of their lives love story.
But the film feels dramatically sold short. Set ups for consequences emerge only to be cast asunder because the dramatic conclusions wouldn't suit the film's outlook on life; too much happens off screen (to discuss would be to stray into spoilers) and it sells the characters short and the audience's involvement and investment is wasted. Its strength may be its cast, because it certainly isn't the writing for this second outing in the Indian hotel.
There are some joys to behold; for the first half of the film, Sonny's boundless energy leads to several amusing moments and watching Judi Dench and Maggie Smith's characters banter back and forth is akin to a BAFTA celebration, but the weaker sub-plots as the writers try to cast their nets to all of the cast make it feel stretched terribly thin.
Gere and Greig have very little to do - with Gere simply going more for the charm and charisma but ending up a little smarmy; and Greig is more-or-less sidelined as the ensemble cast get their time in the twilight sun. A series of repeated gags pepper the film and leave it feeling as tired and worn out as perhaps some of the relics on the screen.
But, I don't doubt this will be a success with its target audience and it's nicely filmed using India's vistas (and very little else) and put together with a cast who give it their all.
The problem with The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is it just feels incredibly unadventurous as it tries to negotiate the final stages of life and love; it's afraid to show any dramatic consequence and feels frustratingly limp in comparison to the first.
In short, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is one hotel I couldn't wait to check out of.