We oft forget the nice movies. These are the films that are not ground breaking by any stretch, but carry simplistic and poignant messages none the less. They are full with some of the most enthusiastic actors and are the result of the commitment of a generally very good director. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012) is one of these films. John Madden directed that film with one message in mind: people over 60 should not be worried about the end of the journey, but the NEXT journey. Building on story from the previous, The Second effortlessly allows to jump back into the lives of some very well written characters.
Several months after Muriel (Maggie Smith) joins Sonny (Dev Patel) in running The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the pair are preparing to franchise the hotel and are meeting with investors in the states. Unsure at first, the investors mull over the proposition as the pair make their way home for Sonny’s impending marriage. Meanwhile, Evelyn (Judi Dench) is still finding ways to make herself useful, buying Kashmir for distributors and being accompanied by Douglas (Bill Nighy). While the pair do grow closer, Evelyn is unwilling to make a commitment to the man. Norman (Ronald Pickup) continues his affair with Carol (Diana Hardcastle) while Madge (Celia Imrie) is being courted by two rich locals.
One thing The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel did well was leave some intriguing possibilities open for its sequel. It wrapped up a lot of the original arches with depth, and Madden understood there were some relationships that still needed exploring. Relationships, rather than mortality, take the front in the sequel and is explored in a very interesting way; can an over-60 person be afraid of settling down or choosing love, even at their age? It sound like a silly, irreverent question, but The Second Best makes it a serious discussion and links it well to other storylines.
Of course the standout is the cast. There’s a reason that these actors are legends, because they can take the most simple of written characters and transform them into layered and engaging performances. It is sad not to see Tom Wilkinson on the roster. However, he is replaced by the more than capable Richard Gere and Lillete Dubey. Dev Patel is, of course, brilliant as the overly enthusiastic and wordy Sonny. I could watch him in anything; Newsroom, Slumdog and I can’t wait to see him in Chappie. What’s sad about this cast is that it is a constant reminder that these actors will not be around for as long as we think. We will have to look back and reminisce about Judi Dench being a kickass m- and Bill Nighy won’t always be available for another Pirates film. More saddening is the fact that Maggie Smith may never return for another stint as Professor McGonagall. Maggie Smith was the highlight for me in this film. I’ll call it too, maybe a Golden Globe nomination next year.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel really doesn’t change too much of its formula, but the direction it takes in this sequel is very enjoyable. The territory explored is a little less enthralling than the last film, but there is still that unsettling feeling of “who is going to kick off next?” And the ending does really well to ramp that up. Some of the story with Sonny and Sunaina (Tina Desai) can get tedious, but both actors rescue it to an extent. Maggie Smith gives a performance that is effective and seemingly effortless. The Second Best Marigold Hotel is, again, a simply nice movie.
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