I absolutely loved the first film and although this one is not quite as great it is very close and I really loved this sequel as well. Even though in the audience I felt like a kid again based on the over 70 year old attendance it is truly a film for middle aged and older. Yet it would be nice to have the younger generation see it if not for its unique writing, the relationship between young Sonny (Dev Patel) and Sunaina (Tina Desai) and the words of wisdom from Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith).
As the story opens Muriel and Sonny are driving down Route 66 on their way in America for a meeting with a huge corporate financier regarding the Best Marigold Hotel and the chances of a Second Best Marigold Hotel. The theme “why die here when I can die there”, not a very good theme making the Marigold the idea as a place to pass on although the residents are up in age that live there and each morning Sonny takes roll call to make sure they are all still breathing.
Sonny and Sunaina are celebrating their upcoming wedding day, first stop “Sagai” the engagement party and friends and family are arriving as the residents of the Marigold prepare. Evelyn Greenslade (Judi Dench) is still working and has been offered a huge opportunity while Douglas Ainslie (Bill Nighy) is in love with her but still has a current wife and daughter in his life so to speak. Madge Hardcastle (Celia Imrie) is still being pursued by some wealthy locals and working it to the last possibility and instead of a left or right turn maybe it’s time to drive straight. Norman Cousins (Ronald Pickup) is still with Carol Parr (Diana Hardcastle) but after he fears he put a hit on her he fears the worse but finds out even more that leads to even more depression leaving him tired all day and awake at night.
Some new members to the party, Kushal (Shazad Latif) who Sonny fears is out to steal not only his fiancé but his life and hotel as well. Lavinia Beech (Tamsin Greig) who is looking for a place for her mother to retire at or at least that’s what she says. Guy Chambers (Richard Gere) the newest visitor who Sonny thinks is a plant from the American financier sent to rate his hotel and to make a decision on if the Marigold is worth the hype. Either way there are words spoken, lives touched, twists and turns in the plot of the characters and the momentum of their likes and dislikes of each other. Some people are who they say they are and well some are not. Yet some unexpected relationships forge amongst she who likes cats and he who likes dogs.
“Sangeet” the family party, oh the in-laws, not so bad but due to Kushal and his interference not all situations are going smoothly. Self-pity sets in as Sonny doubts his life and the decisions by people that surround him. Although in the end the truth comes out, decisions are made, and there is no such place as an ending at “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”. We as human beings always try to control life rather than just letting it go, letting it happen, understanding there’s no present like this time leading up to “Shaadi”, the wedding day.
Great writing, loved the direction although at times I felt a few situations fell though the writing cracks but not enough to make me not recommend this film. Yes it may look as if to have an older demographic but it surely deserves an appreciative audience for such a great take on life, love, emotions, feelings and just plain overall friendships no matter how old you are. Some beautiful back-drops, a great score along with some gorgeous wardrobes all lead to a wonderful story with a wonderful cast and a must see on the big screen.
Patel controls the story and the big screen having the audience fall in love with his constant rushes of adrenaline. Desai is his balance and is beautiful to look at leaving you to appreciate her inner and out strengths. Smith is brilliant and her one liners and spectacular opinions are perfect. Dench is authoritative and Nighy likeable, Imrie not shy yet subtle as are Pickup and Hardcastle. Greig and Gere along with some small on screen time with Latif helps add a little tension to the script making the audience second guess their first thoughts on what will happen next. Bottom line always listen to your gut since it’s 9 out of 10 times correct. With three paws out of four, I’m Jon Patch.