“Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” mediocre, but still charming

Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures
Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

“The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is the aptly named sequel to the 2011 film, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” The first film tells the story of several elderly British people staying in an unimpressive but inviting hotel in India. This film builds on that by adding numerous romantic subplots and all the complications that go with them to the story. The film’s twisting and turning plot, however, is its main weak point, as it tends to rely more on the strength of its cast to create a humorous and charming filmgoing experience.

In the way “The Expendables” brings together an all-star cast of current and former action stars, this movie brings together an all-star cast of elderly, dainty British stars including Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Judi Dench and the lone American in the group, Richard Gere. The film also features Dev Patel as the hotel’s recently-engaged proprietor. A cast with names like these promises quite a bit of wily humor and charm, and the film delivers. Maggie Smith as Muriel Donnelly is quick and acerbic as a salty woman who has been through too much to care about anyone else’s problems. Bill Nighy is the awkward, stuttering, charming Douglas Ainsley who struggles to confess his feelings to the woman he loves. Judi Dench gives a strong performance as Evelyn Greenslade, a character full of clout and vulnerability throughout the movie, and Richard Gere is in classic Richard Gere form as the handsome Guy Chambers who causes all the gray-haired women in the theater to swoon without even having to say a word. And finally, Dev Patel is infectiously energetic in his role as Sonny Kapoor, as he continues his young, promising career in Hollywood. The cast is the key to the film as its stars boast a tremendous amount of chemistry that is very welcoming and entertaining.

However, while the film has an abundance of charm, it lacks much of a plot. The plethora of relationships in the film all play out in very predictable fashion, with all the “twists” in the story either turning out to be unimportant or not being nearly as unpredictable as the screenwriter, Ol Parker, seemed to think they were. The overabundance of complications with all the romances in the film made it feel a bit like a soap opera, which I found somewhat obnoxious, particularly given the foregone conclusion that the film will end happily for all involved anyway. The film’s plot may be unoriginal and a little corny, but it still has an undeniable sense of warmth and pleasantness stemming from its optimism and its uplifting take on finding love at any stage in life. I was probably the only non-retiree in the entire theater, so it’s not surprising that a film so clearly aimed at an older demographic would choose to go with a safe, cozy route.

At the end of the day, “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” may be a little too light on story for some, but its charismatic stars will satisfy most as the film is exactly what it tries to be, a fun but unspectacular diversion for the more mature audience.

Rating: 3 stars

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