2nd Best still charms
Since its box office success, critics have called 2012’s “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” a “surprise hit” owing to the idea, one supposes, that a film made especially for seniors filled with veteran senior actors had little chance at the box office. Actually the film’s success just confirmed how little the youth obsessed industry understands about golden years filmgoers – give them a decent movie for a change and they will run – ahem – walk quickly to the theater to support it. So a sequel was imminent with the first film’s success and while it by no means eclipses the first, the same audience will likely appreciate the similar magic formula of exotic locale plus a lively group of British retirees and their young, enthusiastic Indian host (Dev Patel).
Sonny (Patel) thrilled with the success of his hotel, dreams of an even bigger second location (see, everyone wants a sequel!) and he is scouting one out with his tenant-turned-partner, the ever skeptical Muriel (Maggie Smith). The investment firm the unlikely duo approach send an incognito scout to the original hotel which may or may not be Guy Chambers (Richard Gere) while Sonny’s wedding plans to the beautiful Sunaina (Tina Desai) are a little rocky. Plot lines abound, each filled with either gentle ribaldry or poignant commentary on aging but most importantly are delivered with utter conviction, believability and sincerity by the ensemble cast that might be the most experienced of any film you will see. This includes Bill Nighy, Judi Dench, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Diana Hardcastle whose characters in the first film were getting used to the Jaipur surroundings but now, are getting down to the more serious matters of living and loving.
Director John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love”) has a lot of characters and stories to juggle and does an impressive job of giving the actors their due and remaining patient behind the camera to let the gentle nuances of the dialogue surface. The comedy is subtle, the resolutions unsurprising and nothing here breaks new ground – including the magnificently decorated wedding scene complete with a fun Bollywood dance mix.
Like the characters themselves, now comfortable in their exotic surroundings, the audience for whom this sequel is targeted will enjoy the predictability of a well-executed sequel. And Hollywood who has ignored sunset years film patrons for a long time, is finally realizing they’ve earned it.
Rated PG for suggestive comments and some language.