The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Posted on March 5, 2015 at 5:55 pm

A documentary called “Young @ Heart” had a choir of singers in their 80’s performing contemporary rock songs.  The very fact of their age and experience gave an unexpectedly profound meaning to the words.  And in “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” a plot that ranges from silly to very silly still resonates, because the people in the silly situations are running out of time.  And because they are played by actors of such superb skill that they give power even to fortune-cookie aphorisms like “There is no present like the time.”  The characters in this film have more romantic complications and far more opportunities than the average teen sex comedy — and a lot more sex, too.  But their situation gives it all grace and poignance.

You could give Maggie Smith “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and she would make it sound like repartee written by Oscar Wilde. Here, she has a couple of very good insults and delivers them with wit as dry as a martini made of gin over which the word “vermouth” has just been whispered.  Just listen to her crisply explain that tea is an HERB requiring boiling water to release its flavor.  No tea bags limply dipped in lukewarm temperatures for her.  “How was America?” she is asked on her return.  “It made death more tempting.  I went with low expectations and came back disappointed.”

In the original The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a group of expatriate Brits came to India, mostly because they could no longer afford to live in the UK.  The energetic and eternally optimistic young owner of a dilapidated hotel decided to “outsource old age.”  Just as he saw the beauty of the ancient, crumbling building, he saw the grace, and the revenue stream, of people no longer valued in the place they had lived their lives.

This sequel, with all of the surviving main characters returning, takes us from Sonny’s engagement party to the family party, and then the wedding.  

As it begins, Sonny (Dev Patel) and Mrs. Donnelly (Smith) are driving through California (in a convertible!) to make a pitch for financing to Ty Burley (David Strathairn), so the hotel can expand. Burley promises to send an undercover inspector to check out the hotel. When an American named Guy Chambers (Richard Gere) arrives, Sonny assumes that he is the inspector and lavishes attention on him, ignoring another recent arrival, Lavinia Beech (Tamsin Greig of “Episodes”), who says she is checking out the place for her mother.

Meanwhile, Sonny is frothing with jealousy over another arrival, a friend of his fiancee’s brother who is handsome, wealthy, and very attentive to Sunaina (Tina Desai). Evelyn (Judi Dench), who has not quite managed to move things ahead with Douglas (Bill Nighy), is so successful in her free-lance work as a scout for textiles that she is offered a big promotion. Madge (Celia Imbrie, whose lush figure prompted Helen Mirren’s call for “bigger buns” in “Calendar Girls”), is happily “dating” two wealthy men and having trouble deciding between them. And in the silliest of all of these flyweight storylines, Norman (Ronald Pickup), who is trying out monogamy for the first time, thinks he may have accidentally put out a hit on his lady friend Carol (Diana Hardcastle).  There are some nice, quiet touches, though, as we see our friends more at home in India, including interacting more with the locals for friendship, business, and romance.

The movie gently disrupts all of the happy endings of the first film just enough to allow for some minor misunderstandings, some pithy and pointed commentary, and another round of even happier endings, leaving, I hope, the possibility of a third chapter.  Fans of the first film will arrive with high expectations and come home happy.

Parents should know that this film include brief mild language and many sexual references including infidelity and multiple partners.

Family discussion: Why was it difficult for Evelyn and Douglas to reach an understanding about their relationship? What was Sonny’s biggest mistake?

If you like this, try: the original “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and “The Lunchbox”

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Based on a book Comedy Date movie Drama Family Issues Romance Series/Sequel

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