"Once the cultural cliché haze lifts, a poignantly sombre tale of camaraderie intertwined with older generations’ hopes and fears makes for affective viewing"
Irrefutable as the surprise sleeper hit of 2012, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel raked in a bounteous £91 million worldwide after audience word of mouth kept this quintessential OAP comedy in cinemas for an extensive six-month stint. Now, a mere three years later, we return to Rajasthan to reunite with the multifarious silver surfer group who have swiftly adapted to India’s vibrantly boisterous lifestyle. In the joie de vivre of its predecessor, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is the cinematic equivalent of Ronseal, delivering a fail-safe script on geriatric reflection.
The ensemble of virtuoso veterans return to the Jaipur guesthouse, alongside new cast member (and silver fox import) Richard Gere. Keen on monopolising his retirement hotel empire, Sonny (Dev Patel) is quick in acting upon his expansionist dream after two new arrivals Guy (Gere) and Lavinia (Tamsin Greig) leave him with a critical rooming dilemma. This is the start of a capacious, multi-strand narrative that allows each character, as well as its subsequential subplot, to have their moment basking in the momentary limelight.
Director John Madden and screen writer Ol Parker seamlessly follow on from where Deborah Moggach’s novel ended, navigating the British retirees new chosen career paths and chaotic love lives. Evelyn (Judi Dench) and Douglas (Bill Nighy) are still cumbersomely embroiled in a will-they-won't-they relationship, while Madge Hardcastle (Celia Imrie) is proficiently juggling two wealthy local suitors. Meanwhile, the hotel’s co-manager Ms Donnelly (Maggie Smith) vigilantly casts a wary eye over the ever frantic Sonny and his impending marriage to childhood sweetheart Sunaina (Tina Desai).
Once the cultural cliché haze lifts, a poignantly sombre tale of camaraderie intertwined with older generations’ hopes and fears makes for affective viewing at times. The well-seasoned cast ensure the impishly colourful spirit of the first film continues, with its sunny disposition being wholeheartedly infectious.
The closing scenes see the usually sharp-tongued Maggie Smith deliver a misty eye inducing monologue, which communes to an ageing demographic repeatedly over looked in the youth-obsessed film world.