More wonderful wrinkles at 'The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel; 122min; Rated PG
“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (2012) received a surprising welcome for what can only be called an underserved demographic — older folks. It was a huge hit.
Studios will be the first to acknowledge, in the words of Celia Imrie, who portrays Madge in both films, “Nobody in Hollywood likes wrinkles.” Try to imagine “50 Shades of Grey” with snowbirds. It’s a cultural leap that is all but impossible to make. And interesting to think about, but, then, we know that we worship at the shrine of youth.
And yet, as it turns out, in the original, and now in the sequel, “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” there are lots of wrinkles. And wonderful wrinkles they are.
The first film finds a group of delightful, cranky, skeptical pensioners who have all ended up, serendipitously, in a hotel — a bit frayed at the edges — in Jaipur, India. Each brings his or her emotional baggage to be sure, but once they begin to adjust to the wonders of India (the colors are astonishing, the people embracing, the culture a bit overwhelming), and to each other, they settle into a contented rhythm. They are all charming and spending time with them (these storied British actors who are so very good at what they do), in this most exotic spot, is funny and serious and captivating. Jaipur is, after all, a long, long way from London.
It’s at this point that "The Second Best" opens. The usual guests are all present and accounted for. Of course, there are minor issues and speed bumps still being sorted out. Relationships not quite finalized, such as that between Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Evelyn (Judi Dench), or Norman and Carol (Ronald Pickup and Diana Hardcastle).
And not to forget Sonny (Dev Patel), the spark plug behind the original Marigold Hotel, who is eagerly planning, along with Muriel (Maggie Smith), to expand to a second hotel. The caveat is that they require some financial backing. Hence he and Muriel are briefly in San Diego, looking for an investor.
If you enjoyed the first film, you will find pleasure in returning to this hotel again, filled with familiar faces. Of course, arriving at the Exotic Marigold after a three- year absence, well, things may not seem as fresh or original and engaging as that first stay. But then sequels in movies and in life can often seem a bit flat. Which is not to say that this second effort doesn’t have some real pizzazz, created in great part by the fine cast. What it does lack is a strong narrative arc. Instead, it’s composed of a series of vignettes that go in all kinds of directions. As well, a new guest at the hotel, Guy Chambers (Richard Gere), arrives and admits to being 64, and insists he’s at the hotel to write his first novel (Sonny is convinced he is sent by the group considering whether to finance his second hotel). It all gets a bit complicated.
Recall that Sonny is engaged to marry Sunaiana (Tina Desai) and the preparations for their wedding day are, well, involved and filled with drama. Sonny is having a bit of a crisis.
But in the end, this wouldn’t be a film set in India if the conclusion didn’t involve a major Bollywood dance number that is energetic and uplifting and inspires everyone, including the old Brits, to dance and sway and share in Sonny and Sunaiana’s stunningly beautiful day.