Title: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Country: UK, USA
Language: English, Hindi
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director: John Madden
Music: Thomas Newman
Cinematography: Ben Smithard
Four years after the box-office sleeper about an assemblage of UK pensioners find their peace (and new start) in the exotic Indian land, the sequel is a sure thing, reunites the original cast (bar Tom Wilkinson) with director John Madden, and a handful of new blood lead by the silver fox Richard Gere.
As its ambiguous title suggests, we shouldn’t lay our bet on the condition that the “second best” might surpass the “best”, it is a safe strategy, the story continues after the first installment, where each individual has to cope with their own destiny, meanwhile a grand Indian wedding of Sonny (Patel) and Sunaina (Desai) will culminate in the finale.
Evelyn (Dench) is offered a new job at the age of 79, and the burgeoning romance with fellow hotel resident Douglas (Nighy) will eventually come to fruition albeit she holds reserves about her feelings, thus her story is the most life-affirming, and Dench as usual, imbues self-worth and subtlety wonderfully into a non-challenging role.
Muriel (Smith), the spinster in her dotage (although only 19 days elder than Evelyn), develops a natural affinity with Sonny, the young proprietor, doses out opinions (she don’t give advice) to the latter as he is preoccupied with jitters of business expansion (there is an anonymous hotel inspector among the guests whom he is eager to please) and the upcoming wedding (with his paranoid about an usurper who is aiming both his business and his bride). Here, Muriel’s plot-line sustains a force of pathos which cannot be sidetracked if one wants to treat senescence seriously, as expected, Smith assuredly imparts her antics about English custom (boiling water for tea, not tepid piss, to an assistant of an American firm) with a holier-than-thou seriousness and revels in her detachment about triviality as a tack when habitual solitude has been her longtime companion. Juxtaposing the Bollywood extravaganza with Muriel’s solemn farewell letter, the poignancy of life reaching its terminal has been sensitively played out with a moot explanation of her decision.
Only if the movie were solely centerd around Evelyn and Muriel, since the rest of the movie is nothing but platitude, where Richard Gere’s toe-curling wooing of a constantly aggravated Lillete Bubey and Ronald Pickup’s overstated craze of an assassination deal are the nadir.
In all honesty, this franchise is a pretty awesome rarity due to its niche audience market, an timely product in the exigency of the diversity in mainstream cinema, one might complains that it plays safe while has several national treasures at hand, yet, it is better than nothing, at least its profitability can promise more similar-themed works are on the drawing board, and hopefully, it will also supplement more distinctive inspiration to the blueprint.