The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
If the majority of pop culture is to be believed, individuals over the age of 50 fall into one of two categories: the butt of a joke, or the object of pity. In a world that prioritizes wrinkle-free skin over life experience, it’s unfortunate how few films, television shows and books present complex, fully developed older characters. “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” isn’t anything groundbreaking in terms of plot, and wobbles on the edge of cultural tourism from time to time, but in terms of presenting retirement age as rife with possibilities, it’s a colorful, resounding success.
This follow-up to 2011’s “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” opens with grouchy Muriel (Maggie Smith) and cheerful hotel manager Sonny (Dev Patel) petitioning an American bank for a loan to expand their burgeoning business in Jaipur, India. When Guy (Richard Gere) arrives at the hotel soon after, Sonny pulls out all the stops for a man he believes is an inspector from the bank — at the expense of his own engagement to fellow employee Sunaina (Tina Desai). Meanwhile, Evelyn (Judi Dench) balances a brand-new career with her feelings for soon-to-be-divorced Douglas (Bill Nighy), new couple Norman and Carol (Ronald Pickup and Diana Hardcastle) stumble on the road to monogamy, and Madge (Celia Imrie) enjoys a full, but not necessarily fulfilling, love life.
“The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” contains some recurring characters and references from its predecessor, but is easy to follow for those new to the thriving group of elderly expats. Ben Smithard’s cinematography is lush and lovely, and Ol Parker’s screenplay is a little long but overall sharp, witty and empathetic. As characters young and old prepare for turning points in their lives, there are opportunities for laughs and a few sniffles. The phenomenal ensemble cast, especially Smith, Nighy and Dench, deliver each line and beat with aplomb, forming genuine relationships and retaining quirky optimism.
I could easily watch another “Marigold Hotel” installment and revisit this sweet and colorful home that the group has made for itself. Is theirs an idealized India? Absolutely. Do the characters actively reinforce the tried and true trope that it’s never too late? Even more so.
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