The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Spry sequel to the cross-cultural smash featuring Judi Dench and Maggie Smith
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel's happy resolution didn't leave much room for a sequel; the film's extraordinary commercial success, however, made this an inevitability. Although the motivations behind its existence are certainly cynical, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel squeaks through on its positivity and humour, with its sharp wit and trite wisdom delivered by a cast who could give a party political broadcast integrity and emotional impact.
John Madden (Shakespeare in Love, Mrs Brown) returns as director, as does screenwriter Ol Parker and those cast members whose characters survived the first film.
Set eight months after the events of its predecessor – which saw a group of British pensioners decamp to a dilapidated hotel in Jaipur – the sequel finds the gang well and truly integrated, with manager Sonny (Dev Patel, once again giving it large) preparing for his wedding day, as he tries to get a second retirement hotel off the ground. Douglas and Evelyn (the charming Bill Nighy and Judi Dench) are still circling each other cautiously, despite him leaving his wife to stay in India with her. Blowsy Madge (Celia Imrie) is torn between two suitors, whilst mysterious newcomers Guy (Richard Gere) and Lavinia (Tamsin Greig) arrive. Maggie Smith delivers some magnificent put-downs as the ailing co-manager Muriel, now purged of her toxic racism.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel boasts great affection for Indian culture, and its considerable character and irreverent attitude to death makes up for the formulaic structure and predictable outcomes. It's breathtakingly beautiful too and, when it comes to matters of sex and relationship breakdown, refreshingly non-judgemental.
Gere squints and twinkles ineffectively in a cardboard role that plays cringingly to his ego, but the original cast continue to shine as seniors seizing their last chance at getting life right, whose energetic antics – new careers, illicit liaisons and heartfelt love affairs – ensure that the film will be relatable to all ages. This second check-in may overdo the sentimentality, however its refusal to pigeonhole its elderly characters and lust for life are to be savoured.
General release from Thu 26 Feb.