I love how things often work out. Just last week I rented the DVD of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, not realizing until I got home that the preview I had been seeing on newly released films was for the second movie in this story. I watched the first movie…twice…and loved it. The second film released Friday. I had the joy of catching a matinee today of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
This comedy/drama features the return of the cast from the first film, minus one whose character passed away during the last movie. Stars include Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Diana Hardcastle, Lillete Dubey, Rajesh Tailang, Dev Patel, Tina Desai, Penelope Wilton, Richard Gere, and Tamsin Greig. It was directed by John Madden, carries a PG rating for mild language, and has a run time of 2 hours and 2 minutes.
Picking up eight months after the conclusion of the last film, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel finds the hotel doing well…so well in fact, with the elderly and beautiful occupants, that there is only one available room remaining. Sonny (Patel) who is soon to wed his fiancé Sunaina (Desai) and Muriel (Smith) have traveled to the US to secure financing for a second hotel for the elderly. Impressed by the presentation, the CEO of a high end hotel chain promises to send a hotel inspector, under cover, to check out the viability of Sonny’s venture.
Back in Jaipur, India, the acquisition of the second hotel is a minor storyline, woven amidst the colorful stories of the endearing characters as they sort out the various relationships that they are in. Norman (Pickup) and Carol (Hardcastle) are still together, however, Norman struggles with a wandering eye, and then fears he has inadvertently hired a hitman to take out his girlfriend. Madge (Imrie) now has two wealthy suitors vying for her hand in marriage. As she wavers back and forth indecisively, she forms a warm and trusting relationship with her Indian driver, Babul (Tailang).
Evelyn (Dench) has accepted a new job acquiring fabrics for an import company. She and Douglas (Nighy), while enjoying each other’s company, have not quite been able to get pass the awkward stage in their relationship. Evelyn feels like she needs more time to ease into a romantic relationship. Douglas’ soon to be ex-wife, Jean (Wilton) makes a surprise visit, accompanied by her daughter. There are two newcomers at the hotel: mysterious Lavinia Beech (Greig), who claims to be at the hotel scouting it out for her elderly mother, and Guy Chambers (Gere), who says he’s an author writing his first book. However, Sonny figures out he is the hotel inspector who has arrived to check out the success of the Marigold Hotel. The only thing Guy seems interested in inspecting though is Sonny’s beautiful but emotionally subdued mother (Dubey).
Sonny and Sanaina’s marriage is rapidly approaching, but Sonny is distracted by all the goings on at the hotel, creating stress between the young couple. He misses getting to purchase the second hotel because an attractive friend of Sunaina’s brother swoops in and purchases it instead. At the heart of all the swirling relationships is Muriel, assistant manager of the hotel and financial overseer. She becomes the keeper of secrets for the group even as she recognizes how tenuous her relationship is with Time.
It was so fun to see the second movie days after watching the first one and becoming enchanted with the characters. The first movie focuses on adjusting to new surroundings and a new way of life, while facing the fear of change and uncertainty. This second film zeros in on the complexity of relationships. The elderly are by no means experts yet when it comes to that complicated area of life. Evelyn enjoys everything about Douglas, yet feels she needs time to get over the loss of her husband before entering into a fresh and new relationship. Muriel, who narrates this tale, dishes out her blunt wisdom. “How much time do you think you have?” How much do any of us have, really? What a great reminder to enter into life, rather than watching from the sidelines.
Douglas, in his halting delivery style, voiced one of my favorite monologues, as he relates his frustration to Norman over not being able to share his heart freely with Evelyn. He winds down his humorous yet sincere speech with these words, “Relationships…are a journey. A journey.” I loved that. There was my word…and another great reminder. There were ample reasons to smile over the antics of the characters as they felt their way through their relationships. And reasons to tear up over the honesty presented when those relationships were not going as smoothly as planned, or when decisions weighed heavily upon the heart. The characters struggled and then persevered, and in their journeys learned important truths about themselves.
I loved the culmination of all the subplots as they wove through the movie, the characters finding their resolutions at Sonny and Sunaina’s festive wedding reception. The dancing, music and rich colors were a joy to behold. I don’t think I was the only one in the theater laughing and tapping my toes. I am captivated by India, and it has gone on my bucket list of places to visit. I am looking forward to The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel releasing on DVD so that I can purchase both movies and watch them, back to back, and enjoy the whole story. Until then, I have much to reflect on and ponder.