The Watchers

The Watchers

Friday, 13 March 2015

Review: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (UK Cert PG)

Putting 'Second Best' in the title of a movie is a bit of a gamble. It suggests that it might not be as good as the first (always a risk with sequels anyway). However, I found The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel to be just as good.

The original film was a bit of a sleeper hit back in 2012 and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. A perfect Sunday afternoon film, gentle, warm, funny and bittersweet. The second is more of the same; director John Madden and writer Ol Parker are back on board, as are most of the original cast. And you don't need to be of an equivalent age to the characters to sympathise or empathise with them; their stories speak to everyone. 

Sonny (Dev Patel) and Muriel (Maggie Smith) travel to California to try and get funding to expand the hotel. The company have said they will send an inspector to the hotel to report. So, when the dashing American Guy Chambers (Richard Gere) arrives, Sonny assumes he is the inspector. Meanwhile, Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Evelyn's (Judi Dench) nascent relationship hits a few stumbling blocks, not least when Douglas' wife Jean (Penelope Wilton) breezes back into town, whilst Madge (Celia Imrie) has a difficult choice between two suitors and the hotel prepares for Sonny's wedding to fiancee Sunaina (Tina Desai). 

Performances are really strong across the board. Smith steals the piece with her waspish putdowns as the irascible Muriel. Nighy and Dench are lovely as the stumbling, bumbling would-be lovers (like something out of a Richard Curtis movie). Dev Patel retains the ebullience and optimism shown in the first film, and Celia Imrie gets some drama along with the humour as a woman caught between two men. The burgeoning relationship between Guy and Sonny's mother (Lillete Dubey) is played really nicely, with a wonderfully written dinner scene between the two a highlight of Ol Parker's script. 

That's not to say the script is perfect - there's a bit of contrivance, especially with the hotel inspector subplot (the answer to that is quite obvious)- but it pulls off the balance between laughter and pathos and, what's refreshing is, it doesn't batter you over the head with some of the plot points. They're handled nicely and subtly and there's one in particular that will bring a lump to your throat.

You could argue that there's no need for this film (truth is, there's very rarely a need for any sequel). That said, this is a gentle and inoffensive slice of escapism and a pure joy from start to finish.

Rating: 4 out of 5


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