Director: John Madden
Starring: Bill Nighy, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith
Running time: 122 minutes
Following on where the highly successful 2012 film left off, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a treat of a film.
The cast remains largely the same as the original film, with a few exceptions; Graham Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson) passed away at the end of the first film, and the role of Penelope Wilton’s character Jean Ainslie is somewhat reduced for the Marigold’s return. There is also a good handful of new characters to add to the mix, with Richard Gere and Tamsin Greig becoming the latest high-profile residents of the hotel.
The plot moves on considerably, with the aim no longer being to save the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel but to try and expand it to new premises, potentially with foreign assistance. For Sonny (Dev Patel) and Sunaina (Tina Desai), the story turns to their upcoming nuptials and the trials and tribulations of being a young couple in love.
One of the wonderful things about the film is that each member of the main cast seems to have their moment to shine, when it’s their turn to take a lead in the narrative and direct where their story will go and how it will affect the others. This sometimes means that the plot is a little cluttered, but I think it is worth it, as no character really feels like a minor role.
Perhaps my favourite story was that of Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Evelyn (Judi Dench); their relationship has been quietly blossoming since the first film, and with the exit of Douglas’ wife Jean, a pairing always seemed possible for the couple. This idea is expanded upon with an almost will-they-won’t-they storyline streaming through the plot. Without giving too much away, it comes to a most satisfying conclusion that gives the characters the ending they deserve.
The standout character, however, has to be Maggie Smith’s Muriel Donnelly. Her quick wit and sobering demeanour, along with Smith’s usual talent, mean that both the rest of the cast and the audience really warm to her. Her role has been expanded a little since the first film, but it feels like a natural progression for the character, who seems to be more at home than ever in the hotel.
One always wonders, when going to see a sequel, whether it will meet up to the original; whether it will grab you in the same way that the first film did. Mumbles that I overheard whilst leaving the cinema seemed to confirm my own opinion that it was a good film but perhaps not as good as the first. There was something lacking which is hard to define; perhaps, seeing as it’s a sequel, it’s the originality, but this shouldn’t take away too much from the film.
What is as good as ever, however, is the cinematography. The film, like the first, was shot in Jaipur in the north west of India. The city provides a beautiful backdrop and adds more than a hint of exoticism to the film. If you suffer from wanderlust, then this film is definitely going to get you searching for a cheap flight to India.
All in all, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a charming film with a cast to die for and a setting to fly for. If you want to escape your studies for two hours and leave the British winter behind you, I would definitely recommend it.