The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Sequels are so often disasters or, at least, strained attempts to eke out all the best bits of the first success and awkwardly turn them into a wholly new film. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has the potential to do just that.

Following on from the 2012 comedy-drama hit, the film is still set against the same backdrop (a gloriously ramschackle hotel in Jaipur), with the same set of amalgamated  pensioner guests. However, there is now a twist. The ever-energetic, over-enthusiastic manager Sonny (played with goggle-eyed comedic timing by Dev Patel) has grand visions to expand the hotel into a large scale enterprise, and a US retirement home business might invest. Cue the arrival of two new guests, one of whom Sonny takes to be the potential investor. What follows is a confusion of sub-plots and anti-climaxes; at times it comes close to turning into a mini soap-opera-come-Bollywood homage (Sonny’s wedding dance classes become a feature in themselves), and Richard Gere’s ‘heart-throb’ addition just comes across as sleazy against the eccentricities of the rest of the cast.

However, the cinematography is beautiful, with wide, open seascapes of colour and enough soft, sunset-dappled scenes to make you want to jump on the next plane to Jaipur.

There is no pretence to this film; it’s a comedy not a social critique of British expats and culture-clash clichés. Yes, it’s silly and sentimental and sugar-coated, but it is also surprisingly moving, which might have something to do with the powerhouse of formidable, scene-stealing actors. Endearing isn’t a word normally associated with Bill Nighy, but his shy and guileless attempts to woo Judi Dench’s Evenlyn are just that,  whilst he simultaneously maintains his debonair, spy-like sophistication. Meanwhile, a cockney-tongued, tea and biscuit loving Maggie Smith delivers her pithy one liners with the perfect balance of disinterest and sardonic disdain. But really, this film is a feel-good watch which leaves you smiling. And you don’t need a pension-badge and hearing aid to qualify.

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