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The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL

2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: John Madden

Cast: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Ronald Pickup, Richard Gere, Lillete Dubey, Celia Imrie, Tamsin Greig, Tina Desai, Diana Hardcastle, Penelope Wilton, Shazad Latif, David Strathairn

MPAA Rating: PG (for some language and suggestive comments)

Running Time: 2:02

Release Date: 3/6/15


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Review by Mark Dujsik | March 5, 2015

The lesson of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was that life does not end in a person's twilight years. It only ends when it ends. There is still time for personal growth, to meet new people, to explore new places, to be a benefit to society, and to start a blog in which one can write out all these things to provide convenient narration about all the lessons one has learned. Yes, it was sappy and obvious, and yes, the characters existed primarily to offer monologues about their challenges and revelations. Everything was wrapped up in a tidy package with a pretty bow on top. In The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, we determine pretty quickly that whatever lessons these characters may have learned have been forgotten.

For a sequel that follows a movie that emphasized its elderly characters' development, there's something perplexingly static about where these people find themselves at the start of the movie. Yes, circumstances have changed a bit. Everyone here is now a permanent resident of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (for the Elderly & Beautiful) in India. They have a routine. They go for monthly checkups at the local clinic. Sonny (Dev Patel), the hotel's owner/manager, calls the roll of all the lodgers every morning, in case anyone has died in the night (Sonny seems to have an endless list of euphemisms for death). There's dinner every evening, and in the time between, the residents do whatever they want.

The characters and their relationships, though, had shifted by the end of the first movie, or at least they seemed to have done so. We find the main characters, whose stories are given short shrift with the arrival of two new boarders and a plot about Sonny's wedding and his attempt to expand the business, in the same places in their respective lives.

Evelyn (Judi Dench) and Douglas (Bill Nighy), whose will-they-or-won't-they dynamic constituted a big portion of the previous movie, are still in the will-they-or-won't-they phase of their relationship, despite the removal of the only obstacle from their romantic path. The obstacle, one may recall, was Douglas' wife Jean (Penelope Wilton), who shows up late in the movie for the sole purpose of showing up late in the movie.

Evelyn receives a job offer that would entail lots of travelling. Her boss thinks that might be a problem for her, given her relationship with Douglas. Evelyn is quick to point out they aren't together but also aren't "not-together." Apparently, the language of lovelorn high-schoolers persists even as people approach 80.

Sonny has a more substantial role to play. He's still insecure in his relationship with Sunaina (Tina Desai), even though the two are getting married in a few days, and uncertain about the future of his business. In the opening scene, he and Muriel (Maggie Smith) meet with an American company run by Ty (David Strathairn, in what is essentially a thankless cameo) to invest in a second building. There are complications, of course, primarily involving Kushal (Shazad Latif), a friend of Sunaina's brother, who has arrived for the wedding and a business opportunity. Sonny is jealous of Sunaina's attention toward Kushal and eventually envious of his business plan.

Muriel returns to offer tough-as-nails observations. Madge (Celia Imrie) is trying to choose between two wealthy suitors. Norman (Ronald Pickup), the man who lusted after women but was unable to do anything because no woman would give him the time of day, finds himself lusting after women but unable to do anything about it because he's dating Carol (Diana Hardcastle). In the movie's strangest turn, Norman believes he has unintentionally marked Carol for murder. That's how hard-pressed screenwriter Ol Parker is to give these characters something—anything—new to do.

The new cast members are Richard Gere as Guy Chambers, a writer whom Sonny believes is a hotel inspector for the hotel chain that could finance his expansion plans, and Tamsin Greig as Lavinia, whom Sonny ignores for the predictable revelation about the character in the third act. Guy woos Sonny's mother (Lillete Dubey) and, of course, learns that the twilight years of a life are rife with potential for new adventures.

The only significant thing to discuss about the movie is how familiar it is, while pointing out a few things it "at least" does. At least the sequel doesn't have the same teasing way of suggesting the inevitable death of a character or two as its predecessor did (Not counting the weird "hired assassin" subplot, the movie only indulges in the possibility of a character dying once). At least the cast is still charming, and at least they don't sit around giving monologues about their characters' experiences (although that means they really have nothing do). At least, in the end, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel doesn't mess with its formula too much, but is it too much to ask that it branch out from the same-old just a little bit?

Copyright © 2015 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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