Back To Jaipur In The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Business has been good for Sonny Kapoor. His hotel catering to the elderly has more askers than rooms, and he seeks to buy a nearby property to accommodate the demand in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Sonny (Dev Patel) and his manager, Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith), travel to California to speak with Ty Burley (David Strathairn), the CEO of an American elderly housing chain about a potential investment in the new place. Burley hears their pitch, and promises to send someone unannounced to see how Sonny runs his place in Jaipur. The man Burley sends to Marigold is Guy Chambers (Richard Gere), who comes posing as a travel writer. Sonny, though, does not anticipate the arrival of Lavinia Beach (Tamsin Grieg), a British woman not old enough for Marigold, but seeing if the place would be appropriate for her grandmother. The hotel, though, has just one vacancy. Sonny, assuming Guy is Burley's man, welcomes Chambers, and finds room for Lavinia as an afterthought. Sonny also sees Guy has an interest in Mrs. Kapoor (Lillete Dubey) and encourages it. Mommy G, as Sonny calls her, helps in the hopes that Sonny succeed.
Sonny's original residents, meanwhile, continue to develop their new relationships in India. Evelyn Greenslade (Judi Dench) has left her job at a call center and become a buyer for a British-based textile company. This job will give new less time with her new romantic interest, Douglas Ainslie (Bill Nighy), who now works as a tour guide in Jaipur. Douglas's estranged wife, Jean (Penelope Wilton), has returned to finalize their divorce. She has come with their daughter Laura (Claire Price), an IT professional on business in India who's interested in meeting Evelyn. Norman Cousins (Ronald Pickup) is still seeing Carol Parr (Diana Hardcastle), but a misunderstanding between Norman and a cab driver makes him think the driver's going to kill Carol. Madge Hardcastle (Celia Imrie) has become involved with two different men, but finds she's more interested in her chauffeur. As he plans to expand, Sonny also prepares to wed his beloved Sunaina (Tina Desai). Their old friend Kushal (Shazad Latif) has come home to attend the ceremonies, as well as make plans about the place Sonny wants for a competitor. As things seem to get out of control, he turns to Muriel for advice, though she's reluctant to offer any. In fact, Muriel starts to have some worries of her own.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel not only brings back the cast of the first movie, but director John Madden and screenwriter Ol Parker return to continue the story of the pensioners and the man who rebuilt his hotel around them. The story has some out-of-character silly moments, such as Douglas needing help to conduct a tour and Sonny being so eager to please, he seems amateurish as a businessman. Still, I enjoy the sense of community the Marigold residents and the hotel owner have built. All of them are happy for Sonny as he prepares for expansion and marriage, and Sonny takes interest in the well-being of each resident. They have become a new famly of sorts as Sonny and Sunaina prepare for a life as a couple. The story stays true to the first, with no big surprises regarding the stories of any character. All continue to be pleasant and endearing - even Muriel, who's the most serious of the group.
The best parts of the movie are the parts with Dench and Smith. At age 79, Evelyn finds she can still be a valuable asset in the work force. She has the opportunity to build bridges between India and England in terms of business and understanding, and does so with patience and class. She also comes to grips that Douglas wants to grow older with her, even with her new responsibilities taking her to various cities throughout the country. Muriel, as the hotel manager, has found herself more wanted at Marigold than she ever did in four decades as a house cleaner for the families she served. She also wants to set an example for Sonny regarding the proper way to run a hotel. She brings organization to Marigold instead of hopes and visions for a successful venture. Eventually, she even gives the advice Sonny has requested. Patel remains engaging as the well-meaning Sonny, who learns as he goes. Gere and Strathairn do nice work in support as people who want to learn about the Marigold.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a bit like Sonny Kapoor himself - eager to please at any cost. Second Best may lack in story in some points, but it has a cast that carries the film through the story weaknesses. This sequel is not as good as its predecessor, but it's certainly not one that plays like any sort of obligatory sequel. Viewers, in fact, don't even need to be familiar with the first movie to be entertained by the second one. They can just be the cinematic neighbors for a couple of hours and have a good time.
On a scale of zero to four stars, I give The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel three stars. It's second best, but not in a bad way.