The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

If ever a movie would have been fine without a sequel, this continuing story of the elderly residents of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in India would probably qualify. In the first story, all the loose ends seemed wrapped up, the key characters who were moving on did so and the ones who were staying appeared to have things under control. Of course when you make nearly a $140 million at the box office on a $10 million dollar investment, it is hard to walk away from the table. You have to figure that you are playing with the house’s money so why not take a shot?

Fortunately, instead of being a straight money grab like the two sequels to “Taken” have been, “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” has a few pieces of pleasure to dispense. There is nothing here that is essential to a story, but if you enjoyed the company of the cast in the first movie, there are some nice moments to get reacquainted and to have a mild laugh or two. If you never see this film, you are not depriving yourself, but if you do, you are certainly not hurting either yourself or the memory of the earlier movie.

This time out the culture clash is keep to a minimum, and in fact, the main characters are emerged in their new home and culture very nicely. The outside influence this time is the involvement of a major American Company that has been asked to invest in a franchise of the original establishment and expanded capacity. A brief  visit to America by young Sonny the Hotel Manager played by Dev Patel with Maggie Smith’s Miss Donnelly as adviser, brings the promise of an investigation of the facility by the potential partners. Lickity split, two new arrivals appear at the hotel and Sonny begins to lose control and allows jealousy and fear to blind him to his behaviors. His upcoming wedding becomes the playground for several episodes of embarrassing humor and for a little bit of drama.

We see less of the gritty part of India in this chapter and instead focus more on the festive. I had the pleasure once of attending an Indian wedding here in Southern California, or I should say one part of an Indian wedding because it seems that there are several rituals to go through. The different events each allow an escalation in the tension (what little there is) but mostly provide a beautiful backdrop for music, dancing and costumes of the sub-continent. The mild romantic endeavors of the aging sweethearts are side shows to the nuptials of the young couple. There is some silly business about an accidental contract put out on one of the women, a slow realization that wealth is less important than compatibility, and a final push toward the edge of commitment for couples that do not have that much time left to commit. None of it means anything, it is like it’s predecessor, a frothy confection for the over 50 set who don’t want to see an action film or a science fiction film this month.

Richard Gere shows up and while his hair has always been prematurely white or grey, he looks this time like he is actually moving into the golden years, still handsome but a little more weathered. Bill Nighy continues to play the same hesitant, nearly stammering older character that has been so delightful in earlier films, although it does seem he commits to the role a bit. Judy Dench dashes through the film with as much screen time as any other character but with less importance to her role than many of the other characters. Maggie Smith manages to be funny this time without the racial jibes that made her character irascible in the last film.   If the India of this film, were the India of the real world, I might be tempted to retire there myself. I have learned however that a movie and reality are rarely partners and instead I will enjoy the view from my seat and move on to another exotic location in the next film I see.

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