Several years after opening his intimate crown jewel, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, an ambitious entrepreneur seeks to expand his hospitality footprint in the warm, cozy sequel, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
After the successful launch of Jaipur’s comfortable senior boutique hotel, owner Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) has his eyes on bigger fish. Opening by negotiating with an American investor, Ty Burley (David Strathairn) to expand his comfortable India footprint, as well as preparing for an upcoming wedding to his beautiful love, Sunaina (Tina Desai), Sonny’s future seems bright.
It’s not just Sonny’s personal life that is shining, the prospects at the hotel seems promising as well. The old gang, no pun intended, are alive and well and there is just one vacancy available at the hotel. Aware that Burley intends to send his “guy” over to check out the Marigold, Sonny has an epiphany when two guests, Lavinia (Tamsin Greig) and author, Guy (Richard Gere) and vie for the last room. Thinking that Guy is Burley’s “guy,” Sonny coldly brushes off Lavinia to cater to his special guest.
While Sonny is digging himself into a hole, Marigold co-manager, Muriel (Maggie Smith) quietly goes about her affairs. Seemingly waiting for death to come for her at any moment, she lives with a sense of honesty that her other elderly companions seem to lack, rightfully so, as the keeper of everyone’s secrets. Meanwhile, each of the other couples are dealing with their own personal “Love Indian Style” adventures.
Now members of the Jaipur workforce, Evelyn and Douglas (Judi Dench and Bill Nighy) are carefully pining for each other but Evelyn’s uncertainty keeps him at an uncomfortable distance. Lovebirds Norman and Carol (Ronald Pickup and Diana Hardcastle) are now in an exclusive relationship, but a humorous misunderstanding and fidelity prove to be challenges for their affection. Sexy senior Madge (Celia Imrie) juggles two eligible and very wealthy suitors, trying to determine which one will win her “honeypot lottery.”
Lurking beneath Sonny’s genuinely positive veneer is his simmering rivalry with his handsome, affable cousin, Kushal (Shazad Latif), who in an effort to help prepare Sunaina for the wedding, brings out all of Sonny’s insecurities and his feelings toward his cousin threaten his long-term happiness with soon-to-be-bride. Also complicating matters for Sonny is the American Gigolo himself, Guy (Gere), who has eyes on his widowed mother, Mrs. Kapoor (Lillete Dubey).
There is a lot of balls to juggle in this sweet, geriatric romantic comedy and director John Madden keeps much of the action moving smoothly. Expertly juggling beautiful locales with solid acting performances, he gives the film a familiar, yet constantly inviting feel that provides a pleasant entertainment experience. He is also blessed with two acting titans in Smith and Dench, whose familiar and easy-going styles, perfectly compliment each other. While it doesn’t happen often in the film, their scenes together are virtual clinics in the British thespian arts.
It is always a welcome surprise when an unsuspecting little gem overcomes the odds and succeeds over the objections of studio executives, who are always looking for the younger, newer alternative. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which deals with mature adults in their twilight years, manages to wrap itself around the audience like a warm cover in front of a fire. Hopefully, the adventure continues for our Jaipur crew, so we can get a chance to see the Great Dames, Dench and Smith, give us more magical moments.