Hotel in Jaipur, India - Wikimedia
If you did not see the prequel to this film in 2011 which was entitled “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” the following will be sufficient to bring you up-to-date on the happenings in the sequel.
The characters are seven British senior citizens who have chosen to spend their retirement years in Jaipur, India for a variety of reasons, mostly economical. A picturesque brochure has led each of them to a hotel “for the elderly and beautiful,” which is so wonderful they “will refuse to die.” Unfortunately, the hotel did not live up to the brochure, and the new residents encounter a run-down edifice with cockroaches and an inexperienced and bumbling staff. The manager, Sonny (Dev Patel) is hoping to turn a profit eventually with his non-traditional idea of catering to the elderly. You may remember Dev Patel from his successful film debut in “Slumdog Millionaire” in 2008.
Dev Patel - Wikimedia
The Latest Happenings at the Hotel
In “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” the guests are firmly entrenched in their living quarters and have learned to make the best of a bad bargain. They are overly tolerant of their young manager who does everything he can to insure their comfort. I did enjoy the part where each resident is subject to a roll call at breakfast to insure that he or she did not die during the night. Sonny has managed to fill his hotel almost to capacity and has his eye on expanding his holdings to include a second hotel. With the help of Muriel Donnelly, who has had experience with finances in her previous life in Britain, Sonny has encouraged an investor to take an interest in his expansion project. The investor is one of the newcomers to the film, David Strathairn, who is far more charming with his newly acquired facial hair than he has ever been. He and Muriel are informed that an inspector wants to evaluate the property before making an investment, and may show up anonymously to look over the situation.
Cast of Characters
Meanwhile, his guests are busy becoming acclimated to the heat, the noise, and the crowded streets of Jaipur. It is interesting that the two main protagonists, Evelyn Greenslade (Judi Dench) and Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith) have taken on the current Indian wardrobe, adding a touch of reality to the story. A few late-in-life romances have bloomed, one between Evelyn Greenslade and Douglas Ainslie (Bill Nighy) which had gotten its start in the prequel. Evelyn has managed to obtain a job as a fabric buyer, which is probably necessary for her since we learned early on that she had to sell her home to pay off the huge debts of her deceased husband. Douglas has taken on the job of being a tour guide for British visitors even though he is not schooled sufficiently in the landmarks of the area. He worries that he and Evelyn will not have sufficient time to further their romance.
Dame Judi Dench - Wikimedia
Sonny is so in love with his girlfriend Sunaina and wants to marry her, although his mother has always disapproved of his choice and would prefer that he return to Mumbai to enter into an arranged marriage. Mom is slowly coming around however.
Newer and Younger Guests at the Hotel
When two separate newcomers arrive without reservations, they are told that only one room is ready for occupancy. Guy Chambers (Richard Gere) agrees to go elsewhere down the street and the female visitor Lavinia Beech (Tamsin Greig) is given the last available room. Sonny becomes nervous because the investor said he would be sending his “guy” to the hotel. The newcomer is named Guy Chambers, which is enough proof for Sonny. He is further distraught when Guy takes an interest in his mother and invites her to dinner.
Friendship of Judi and Maggie
A poignant episode in the film shows Evelyn and Muriel with their heads together. It has been recognized by their fans that Jude Dench and Maggie Smith have been friends for almost sixty years, with Judi being 19 days older than Maggie. So it is no surprise that in the conversation between Evelyn and Muriel, Evelyn mentions that she is 19 days older than Muriel. Whether this was ad-libbed or was part of the original script is unknown, but it was indeed a charming inclusion.
Dame Maggie Smith - Wikimedia
Finally, the Wedding
Sonny has his hands full when he gets the impression that his fiancé Sunaina is spending too much time with her dance partner Kushal who also has an interest in the property that Sonny wishes to buy. Muriel intervenes and Sonny and Kushal become partners in the upcoming business venture. All turns out well and the viewer is entertained at the wedding by professional dancers from India who add color and vivacity to the ending with their costumes and movements.
Can It Top the Original?
It remains to be seen whether this second film will be received as heartily as the original. In the first film, Judi Dench was nominated for a Golden Globe Award as Best Actress in a Lead Role in a Comedy. Maggie Smith was nominated for a SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role. “Second Best” was not given good reviews by major news sources. It was viewed as an attempt by the cast to return to India for another romp at the expense of the film studio. The script appeared to be tossed together quickly with too many characters having too little depth.
Richard Gere - Wikimedia
For me, it was an opportunity to watch Judi Dench and Maggie Smith doing what they do best. Maggie was right there with her acerbic speech which we all know her to possess, having watched her faithfully in “Downton Abbey.” Judi Dench is so charismatic, it is difficult to take your eyes off her as she dominates a scene. It was a great showcase for both of them. I look forward to their next film together, but I certainly hope it will not be “The Third Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”
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