The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a mouthful. I tried saying it to at least two security guards on the way to the screening before just giving up and saying “That Marigold Movie.” Still, the second installment of the story of a group of British Ex-Pats living the end of their lives in a special hotel for the older generation in India is just as charming as the stellar cast involved.
Mrs. Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith) accompanies the proprietor of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Sonny Kapour (Dev Patel) to the sunny coastal town of San Diego, California to discuss the possibility of investment to make the hotel a chain for those who wish to live out the final days in a foreign land, but with familiar people. Mrs. Donnelly is a straight-shooting Cockney woman with no time for nonsense. She informs the waitstaff at this formal meeting of the proper way to offer tea to a Brit, all while Sonny tries desperately to be overwhelmingly respectful. Assured that the investors are interested, the two are sent back to India to await a surprise hotel inspector to give the yay or nay on if the venture is a go. Douglas Ainslie (Bill Nighy) gives tours of the temples nearby the hotel, but does so with the help of a small Indian boy who feeds him information through a wireless headset. Douglas has started to lose his memory and is very touchy about it. Evelyn Greenslade (Judi Dench) is preparing to start a new job that she has been offered, where she will travel across India to find fabrics for a foreign company looking to export the beautiful silks and cloths created by the locals. She is not so secretly in love with Douglas, and the feeling is entirely mutual. However, conflicts arise part due to their inability to admit their interest in each other as well as Douglas’ ex-wife Jean Ainslie’s (Penelope Wilton) sudden arrival and demand for a divorce after years of separation. She claims to be getting married, and traveling abroad to be with her daughter during an important speech gives Jean just the excuse she needs to spy on her ex-husband and give him just a bit more misery. Norman (Ronald Pickup) and Carol (Diana Hardcastle) must navigate their lives as both wonders whom the other is sleeping with, rather than ask directly. Marge Hardcastle (Celia Imrie) works hard to determine which of her two suitors she loves more, or whether she is destined for someone else entirely. All this chaos is set in the backdrop of Sonny and Sunaina (Tina Desai) working to get their traditional Indian wedding and their relationship to work. When two separate guest arrive at the hotel, Guy (Richard Gere) and Lavinia Beech (Tamsin Greig) Sonny immediately assumes his hotel inspector is Guy, while others at the hotel wonder if the inspector in fact it is Lavinia instead.
If the plot sounds complicated, that’s because it is. However, the film blends all these stories and lives together so seemlessly one barely notices that two hours have gone by. The sights and sounds of an Indian Wedding and all the steps that go into it are incredible. From dancing and flowers, to incredible saris the film is a feast for the eyes. At 30, I was one of the youngest people in the screening but I loved every second of this film. Fans of Downton Abbey and Doctor Who will see Penelope Wilton finally get to be a bitter force to be reckoned with. Maggie Smith gives an incredible performance, even if her Cockney accent is frustrating compared to her normally beautiful voice. Richard Gere, of course, gets to do what he does best as a romantic lead. Billy Nighy and Judi Dench are incredible as always. Dev Patel is charmingly adorable as the young Indian proprietor of the hotel with his heart in all the right places, even if he does make quite a few mistakes in his romance. While I found myself easily following the story without having watched the previous film, my fellow movie watching companion admitted that she kept feeling like some backstory was missing. In short, if you’ve seen the first movie it will fill in spare details, but if you haven’t it doesn’t take much away from The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is in theaters March 6, 2015.