Starring: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith
Genre: Comedy/ Drama
With The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel fully booked with permanent guests, hotel owner Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) has his sights on building a second hotel, this and Sonny’s attempts to woo American investors however puts a strain on his relationship with the love of his life Sunaina (Tina Desai) and their imminent wedding. Meanwhile the guests are acclimatising to their new life in India, but all struggling with their own unique relationship problems, with hotel co-owner Mauriel (Smith), despite her venomous tongue, seemingly being the unwilling agony aunt to them all.
Well if one film sums up how potentially lucrative the so-called ‘grey pound’ genre can be, it would be 2011’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a film that was phenomenally successful. Well, with a profit as big as that film had, a sequel was of course inevitable. The first Marigold Hotel was of course a pure middle of the road crowd pleaser, but for its generic, formulaic and predictable tropes it did at least have a little bit of substance, some half decent comedy and of course a superb cast line up. Though I emphasise; A LITTLE BIT, but it was an enjoyable if forgettable film. Well, with all the fish-out-of-water and other character arcs out of the way, what is their left for part 2?
Well, the answer is in fact very little, which is a real shame and most certainly a missed opportunity.
Taking over from where the first one left us, the main basis of the narrative is the ‘will they, won’t they’ romance between Bill Nighy’s Douglas and Judi Dench’s Evelyn, and though this is quite moving at times it gets ultimately equal coverage to the plethora of subplots involving the even bigger cast list. The subplots themselves are all quite badly written, jumbled together rather clumsily and many have nowhere near any kind of satisfactory conclusion or closure, producing a film just being full to the brim of subplots and characters, but yet on the whole surprisingly empty, uninvolving and boring.
I am not naive; I never expected The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel to be a life affirming masterpiece that is a deep philosophical mediation on mortality, likewise I know it solely exists because of the success of its processor and films like this are of course products. However some effort would have been nice from writer Ol Parker. Predictability and cliché are forgivable, but the drama is not often very engaging and genuine comedy often lacking. The Script is completely flat and it seems that because of the success of the first film and the fact the cast has all returned and are joined by Richard Gere that everyone involved doesn’t feel they have to make an effort. This extreme complacency and deep cynicism makes for very frustrating viewing as it wastes a talented cast as well as the chance to explore some genuinely emotive themes.
This is a cast that can elevate a poor script, but even they struggle at times but certainly make the film far more watchable than it perhaps deserves to be. Maggie Smith gets all the best lines once again, and the venomous tongue of her character Mauriel provides some authentic laughs as well as genuine sentiment, despite it all feeling quite synthetic because of the script. Likewise Dev Patel is extremely likeable in a performance just as manic and energetic as the first film, and he do does get some funny lines, but his story gets positively marinated in lazy cliché to the point that it gets annoying. Judi Dench is of course excellent (as always) and her character’s story is undoubtedly moving at times and does explore some emotive themes, but is not enough to save the rest of what is overlong and feels like a Sunday evening TV drama.
Celia Imrie comes off worse in terms of the subplots; it is first of all hard to care about her character and her situation, but she gets the what now seems the obligatory moment in mainstream films set in other countries when a middle class Brit shows a slight element of generosity to one of the poor locals (in this case her driver) and therefore that of all a sudden makes them a great person. Of course The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel does have a slightly touristy depiction of India, but that does of course fit with the highly saccharine tone of the narrative. Coming of worst off all is Richard Gere; he and everyone else seems to think the fact he is Richard Gere is enough, and he delivers a performance that only cares about the cheque. Though it may sound like dialogue, every line Richard Gere says in the film is pretty much him just saying “I’m Richard Gere” in an extremely smug way.
As the various subplots go along, at just over two hours The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel does certainly feel like it at times, and there is no denying that perhaps the film could have been edited a little more efficiently. One of the key elements of these films is that if they are going to avoid genuine substance is that they should be an easy watch, but yet this film is often quite an effort to watch because of its length and poor writing. The final wedding scene is well put together, but while a couple of subplots are met with quite moving conclusions, others are not dealt with very well at all. It is of course watchable with some genuinely funny and moving moments, but these are too few and far between to produce an overall unsatisfying experience and if all involved (a vast majority of the cast excluded) had actually put some effort it in, then The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel could have actually lived up to its potential. When a film has no heart and soul and all that is behind the making of it is the word “ka-ching” then I do not think it is too much to expect a little effort elsewhere.
A shameless cash-in that is very content with sitting right in the very middle of the road; The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is just a shameless and cynical cash-in that does have its moments, but despite the very talented cast lacks the substance to deliver on its potential.