Director: John Madden
Cast: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Diana Hardcastle, Tamsin Greig, Tina Desai, Lillete Dubey with David Strathairn, Richard Gere
Runtime: 2 hrs 3 mins
Released By: 20th Century Fox
Opening Day: 19 March 2015
Synopsis: THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL is the expansionist dream of Sonny (Dev Patel), and it’s making more claims on his time than he has available, considering his imminent marriage to the love of his life, Sunaina (Tena Desae). Sonny has his eye on a promising property now that his first venture, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful, has only a single remaining vacancy – posing a rooming predicament for fresh arrivals Guy (Richard Gere) and Lavinia (Tamsin Greig). Evelyn and Douglas (Judi Dench and Bill Nighy) have now joined the Jaipur workforce, and are wondering where their regular dates for Chilla pancakes will lead, while Norman and Carol (Ronald Pickup and Diana Hardcastle) are negotiating the tricky waters of an exclusive relationship, as Madge (Celia Imrie) juggles two eligible and very wealthy suitors. Perhaps the only one who may know the answers is newly installed co-manager of the hotel, Muriel (Maggie Smith), the keeper of everyone's secrets. As the demands of a traditional Indian wedding threaten to engulf them all, an unexpected way forward presents itself.
Life’s not fair: if this movie was headlined by Americans, a sequel title like “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” would have been labeled as “lazy” and “uninspired”. Luckily then, that this sequel to the 2012 sleeper hit The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (admit it, you still can’t get over Tom Wilkinson’s bittersweet segment) isn’t only directed by English filmmaker John Madden (Shakespeare in Love, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin), it stars an impressive ensemble of English actors – get ready now – Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup and Diana Hardcastle.
Yup, to further add to the fact that this film can’t go too wrong, this is a group of geriatric showbiz veterans who, besides spouting Queen’s English, has an impressive filmography that will put any rookie “actor” to shame.
Now, add the dashing Richard Gere (Chicago, Hachi: A Dog’s Tale) and David Strathairn (Lincoln, Godzilla) to the mix and you have one of the most feel good films you’ll see in cinemas in recent months.
There’s nothing really new to the story in this sequel: the retirement hotel in Indiais exploring the possibility of an expansion, and its inhabitants realise again what love and life entails. This easy going tale is, of course, set in the beautiful backdrop of India, where grand architecture and lovely sights and sounds jump at you like a tourism advertisement – in a good way of course (anything English is endorsable, remember?)
There a few story threads here. Dench (Skyfall, Philomena) and Nighy (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Underworld: Evolution) finds it ironically to officially accept each other’s love, no thanks to Wilton (The History Boys, TV’s Downtown Abbey) returning as the spiteful ex wife. Pickup (Secret Passage, Supernova) isn’t too sure to make of his wife Imrie’s (Nanny McPhee, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger) affairs with other men.
Then you have Smith (Harry Potter films, From Time to Time), who has taken on the role of the hotel’s co manager and has to figure out how to keep things running. She is joined by locals played by Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire, Chappie), whom we can’t decide whether is funny or irritating, alongside the pleasant Tena Desae and Lillete Dubey.
To add some spice, the filmmakers engaged Gere to play a new guest at the residence, who is a suspicious candidate for a hotel inspector. Straithairn only has a handful of scenes as an American businessman, but his screen presence more than makes up for it.
If you liked the first movie, then this one is an easy piece to enjoy too. There isn’t anything sophisticated or profoundly difficult understand about this sequel, which may not be a bad thing. With such a stellar cast lined up, there isn’t really much one would ask for in terms of originality. The result is a feel good movie that triumphs with its talented cast who effortlessly charms audiences with their acting. Couple that with cinematographer Ben Smithard’s lensing of the picturesque India and composer Thomas Newman’s pleasing music score, what you get is a pleasantly enjoyable, if not perfect outing to the exotic lands of India.
(Be charmed again by the geriatric cast ensemble in this effortlessly enjoyable movie)
Review by John Li