THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL

★★★★

COMFORTINGLY FAMILIAR

THEATRICAL REVIEW
By Kate Smith
22nd February 2015

2012’s ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ didn’t set itself up for a sequel, as so many films these days do. It ended on a high note, the heroes and heroines riding off into the Indian sunset (so to speak). But director John Madden felt there was more to be told by the cast of Who’s Who of over-60s British talent.

So appears ‘The Second Best Marigold Hotel’ which picks up closely to where the first film left off. While you will enjoy ‘The Second…’ without seeing the first, you’ll get a lot more out of both films if you have seen the first, first. The outsourced retirees from film one are back, with Bill Nighy’s Douglas and Judi Dench’s Evelyn sort-of-maybe dating, Carol (Diana Hardcastle) and Norman (Ronald Pickup) an established couple, Madge (Celia Imrie) torn between gentlemen suitors, and interfering with it all, Sonny (Dev Patel) and Sunaina’s (Tena Desae) wedding preparations and the arrival of Guy (Richard Gere), who may not be who he says he is. Maggie Smith reprises the irascible Mrs Donnelly, who never apologises for being exactly who she is. The McGuffin is Sonny’s ambition to buy a run-down neighbouring hotel with which to expand his retiree operation; of course, there are complications.

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While aimed squarely at the burgeoning baby-boomer/retiree market, both films have a lot to teach us young’uns too. This film emphasises that just because you’re older doesn’t mean you can’t still face the excitement and perils of life, from new love, infidelity and jealously, to unexpected directions in career and family. Evelyn’s struggle is particularly touching – at 79, faced with scary new prospects, she’s both enamoured and terrified, at times choosing to hide rather than make a choice. It’s achingly familiar to all of us, no matter our stages of life.

Questions about aging and death are raised, sometimes with hilarity, and at others with a poignant seriousness; usually presented expertly by Smith. There’s a Shakespearean quality to it – one moment you’re laughing, the next you feel close to tears. The many strands of the various stories are woven together well, and are easy to follow. Editing is unobtrusive for the most part, with only a moment or two of flash-cut induced discomfort. The soundtrack is similar to the first film – Indian infused instrumental that meshes well with the visual but never distracts from it. The film is shot beautifully; from the opening scenes in the USA to the return to India’s brash colour and striking scenery. You develop a real affection not only for the characters, but also for Jaipur itself; the bustle, the people, the hospitality.

The ending is ambiguous, leaving the audience to draw their own conclusions as to the characters’ future - and for me, is the one moment of confusion that I felt could have been handled better. Nevertheless, ‘The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ is as good as the first, and I highly recommend it... especially if you plan to take your Nan.

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