As director John Madden opens the doors to The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the big question on everyone’s mind is whether the title’s double entendre is just a pun, or if the sequel really is only second to its predecessor.
It’s business as usual at the Marigold Hotel, but to say it’s running only by a hair is putting it lightly. Daydreamer zealot, Sonny (played by Dev Patel), has plans to expand his world of leisure and tourism by opening another hotel, not to mention marry his fiancée and maintain his determination to keep his OAP guests alive and kicking. Alongside his A-team of A-listers, they add to the zany yet profound level of madness in this – ironically – “coming of age” tale of love, laughter and language barriers.
The anticipated sequel had some big shoes to fill with its masterful counterpart, but it certainly gets marks as the second jewel in Madden’s crown. A recipe of Bollywood and bravado, this second blockbuster has brought what feels like a slice of local India to the cinema screen, whisking the viewer away to a new place with new experiences and rules to follow – disorientating, but exciting, a lot like travelling abroad. The story is a rich, detailed canvas of this colourful nation with enough subplots that don’t underwhelm or go overboard around the main storyline, and true to Bollywood style, its energetic musical numbers and dance sequences also pay homage to the traditional yet vibrant genre.
The Second Best Marigold Hotel is awash with cultural and generational clashes, which can and do predictably lead to a few clichés. Luckily writer Ol Parker was on the case to repackage the themes, ensuring the writing was fresh-faced and witty as well as being undeniably funny. What old and tired material that might have been left over was salvaged by the veteran cast and as a result is easily forgiven.
Despite a thorough story and beautiful rendition of Indian culture, it was the acting entourage that truly helped this film strike a chord. The back and forth between the hap hazardous Sonny and his sharp tongued yet sagely co-worker Muriel (Maggie Smith) is complemented well by Douglas and Evelyn’s (Bill Nighy and Judi Dench) on-screen interaction, successfully sating the audience’s desire for an incredibly awkward yet charming brand of British rom-com. Madge (Celia Imrie) also adds a voyeuristic twist to the chemistry with her reprisal of the soul-searching suitor, possessing a remarkable talent for making cringeworthy innuendos sound attractive enough to turn most men into flustered teenage boys.
Overall The Second Best Marigold Hotel will fall into the age-old trap of being compared to its predecessor. For that it may never escape being considered “second best”. However this cornucopia of colour and calamity will entertain and evoke just as effectively and has all the emotional range of a full-bodied, feel-good, dynamic piece of film-making that puts characters and characterisation at its core. With a tremendous collection of acting talent such as this, it just goes to show that sometimes youth is truly wasted on the young.