As we get older, taking stock of one’s life almost becomes a weekly chore. It’s a process that starts as you approach 40 (it did for me anyway), and I’m going to assume as the years continue to stubbornly zoom by, the past will become a full-time preoccupation. You look back at your life, and roll your eyes as you replay every wasted day and stupid mistake, or pat yourself on the back for those moments when you got to shine.
Eventually you get back to today, and the road you’re currently traveling. You take a look at the direction it’s going, and look at what you’ve got to show for all your hard work. This experience can be a positive or negative one, depending on the choices you’ve made. It’s also the subject of both The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and its sequel, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
The first Hotel delivered a meaningful look at past regrets, aging, and looking forward to new experiences and challenges, with the colorful vibrant setting of India as its backdrop. It starred some of the best acting talent Britain has ever produced, and it was a solid hit – hence the sequel!
The Second Hotel, while possessing the same strengths, also suffers the same weaknesses as the first film, in that it tries to do too much. Covering three main story lines, while simultaneously following four smaller ones. Wasting precious time on stories and characters that could be left out of the film. This results in a script that gets dangerously close to sounding like a series of ‘Hallmark’ moments. Packing as much sentiment and information as possible, into every beautifully enunciated syllable by its impressive cast. This movie has no time to get sophisticated or be subtle!
With so much going on, the brain makes choices, and will likely follow the more interesting story lines and characters in the film. Potentially making everything else a chore to get through. Why care about Norman’s (Ronald Pickup) and Carol’s (Diana Hardcastle) relationship escapades? When Muriel, played by the legend Maggie Smith, and arguably the most interesting element in this film, is looking at the end of her life, and wondering if she’ll be missed. Should we care about which wealthy bachelor Madge (Celia Imrie) will choose? When there’s a much more interesting love story unfolding between Evelyn (Judi Dench) and Douglas (Bill Nightly).
Having Richard Gere show up as the recently divorced Guy Chambers, was a dose of star-power this film didn’t need, and the moments spent with his character meant less time with Sonny (Dev Patel) and Sunaina (Tina Desai) as they prepare for their wedding. Though to be honest, I did find the hyperbolic dialog given to Dev Patel annoying at times, and his character’s less than logical motivations and overblown reactions were a little irritating.
Despite all this, at least the second installment didn’t forget what made the first film so good. The main stories are touching, and well acted. Maggie Smith easily steals the show in the sequel, and is missed every time she is not on the screen. The finale is an entertaining taste of Bollywood musical fun, and the movie again shines a positive light on the rich colors and textures of India, and its traditions and people.
It’s a no-brainer really, if you liked the first film, you should like the second one because in my opinion, it has the same strengths and weaknesses. Expect quality performances, and a particularly moving turn by Maggie Smith. The film is rated PG, and will certainly appeal more to older viewers – but fans of quality cinema of all ages should be able to find something to enjoy here.
This film (and the one before it) should be used by the Indian tourist board to attract more foreign visitors. The sights and sounds, hustle and bustle, color and fun are all beautifully photographed. A large theater screen is the best way to appreciate this film. If you wait for the rental, watch this on a nice big HDTV. Screening this on a portable device is not recommended.
Best Moment: << spoiler! >>
There’s a beautifully touching and well acted moment (what can I say, there were tears) between Muriel and Evelyn near the end of the film. These two ladies get each other, and Evelyn clearly understands that something is going on with Muriel, and takes the time to reminder her how much she’s loved by everyone in the hotel.