Film Review “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”

Starring: Dev Patel, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and Maggie Smith
Directed by: John Madden
Rated: PG
Running time: 2 hours 2 mins
Fox Searchlight Pictures

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The irony about being a film critic is that, sometimes, I’m the one that gets criticized for what I’ve written. I know what to expect when I recommend an Adam Sandler film. Sue me, I’m a 13 year old boy in an old man’s body. But this afternoon, as I was preparing this review, I saw a criticism I never would have expected. While going back to see what I had rated the original “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” I noticed a comment had been left. Basically it read:

There is NO WAY English senior’s immune, digestive system can handle Indian foods, whatsoever. Yet again this is nothing but another nonsensical story set in a place which Western senior-transplants haven’t ANY possibility of surviving. (sic)

Wow! Someone sure had a lot of time on his hands. As well as a much better understanding of the British digestive system then I do. Anyway, I thought I’d share that. And now, on with the show.

When we last left our over enthusiastic innkeeper Sonny Kapoor (Patel), he had just convinced a group of elderly British citizens to call his burgeoning hotel “home.” Today we find him visiting the United States, speeding down the historic Route 66 with the barb-tongued Mrs. Donnelly (Smith) by his side. They meet with the owner of a large international hotel chain (David Strathairn) in the hopes of having him finance Sonny’s dream of another hotel and the beginnings of an empire. Sonny is soon due to marry the lovely Sunaina (Tina Desai) and he wants a new hotel to be a wedding gift to his bride. Sonny and Mrs. Donnelly return to India assured that an inspector from the hotel chain would visit to see how Sonny runs his operation. But when more than one new guest shows up to register for a stay, it is obvious that the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel can use some expansion help.

Cleverly written and expertly acted, “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is a welcome, sunny treat during these final weeks of winter. Bolstered by Patel’s exuberance and a first rate cast of British acting veterans, the film sometimes returns to the same situations that occupied the first film but with enough charm that it survives on its own merits. Joining the returning cast is Richard Gere, a recently divorced man looking for a quiet place to write a novel. He is smitten with Sonny’s mother (Lillete Dubey), who is unsure how to accept this Western man’s advances. As for the returning residents, we find Evelyn (Dench) now gainfully employed while Douglas (Nighy), continues to silently pine for her. And of course, Mrs Donnelly is as feisty as ever, delivering such lines as “just because I’m looking at you when you’re speaking doesn’t mean I’m paying attention to you,” with the timing of Groucho Marx. These stories, and others, once again intertwine as the wedding day gets closer. Gere is especially good here, doing what he does best, romance. Even at age 65, Gere is, as Sonny points out, “so handsome that even I question my own sexuality.”

Director John Madden, who also helmed the first film as well as “Shakespeare in Love,” has reteamed with writer Ol Parker to bring old friends back together and introduce us to new ones. Not sure if there’s a third story on this hotel, but it’s certainly one I’d be more than happy to visit.


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Film Review “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”

Starring: Judi Dench, Dev Patel and Bill Nighy
Directed by: John Madden
PG 13
Running time: 2 hours 3 mins
Fox Searchlight

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

This time of year brings many surprises to the multiplex. This season’s first surprise is a charming film packed with a who’s who of some of the greatest actors to ever come out of England. The film is called “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and it’s a fine diversion from the super heroes and animated fare that fills theatres in the summer months.

The story concerns a group of Brit senior citizens looking for a way to keep their autumn years comfortable. Evelyn (Dench) is recently widowed and learning that her husband has left her in a considerable amount of debt. Graham (Tom Wilkinson) is a retired judge who still regrets leaving the love of his youth. Douglas and Jean (Nighy and Penelope Wilton) are a couple of civil servants trying to rekindle the sparks of their marriage. These people and others are drawn to a brochure they are sent from India advertising the opulent Marigold Hotel. Soon the group is off to Jaipur, hoping to spread their retirement money out longer in the Indian economy. However, when they arrive they discover that the hotel is not as fancy as pictured. The phones don’t work, the faucets drip and not all of the rooms have doors. However, inspired by the passion of the hotel’s young owner/manager Sonny (Patel) the palace they imagined begins to take shape.

Skillfully acted by a group that has, between them, 14 Academy Award nominations and 3 Oscars (not to mention the one Bill Nighy should have won for “Love Actually”), the film is the greatest assemblage of British talent since the last “Harry Potter” film. As each person begins to deal with their new surroundings, the story enfolds, enveloping each of them with the magic that Sonny is trying to restore to his family’s hotel. Also along for the trip is Mrs. Donnelly (Maggie Smith) who, rather than wait on a rather long list for a hip transplant, takes advantage of the cost and availability of Indian medicine and two seniors (Celia Imrie and Ronald Pickup) still looking for the excitement that love brings. There are secrets to be discovered, of course, and that is what makes this rather exotic trip worthwhile. Patel brings the same youthful ambition here that he displayed in “Slumdog Millionaire” and more then holds his own against his older co-stars. On the technical side, the film is brilliant with the colors and sights of India, delivering a much more nuanced vision of the country then the one featured in many films. Director Madden keeps the pace moving briskly, helped mightily by a witty script by Ol Parker, based on Deborah Moggach’s novel, “These Foolish Things.”


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