The Second, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015)

The comma is not a typo. If you pause there before you say the rest, you’re clear in announcing the sequel, and not ‘The Second Best…’ for it’s not.

I’d say, it’s a little better maybe, funnier and more lively than the first. I can hear some protests. But in my case, kudos to the Bollywood dancers entertaining us before the movie began – two pairs of youthful and energetic Indian dancers giving us a taste of Bollywood – we were all warmed up and ready to embrace the show.

Who will speak up against Ageism in the movie industry? What better spokespersons than the stars themselves? Let their charisma and performance speak.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is all about checking into new beginnings. In the last chapter, life can be beautiful and fulfilling, and one is never too late to enjoy it, even if they are merely ephemeral, fleeting moments. With the latent energy of the Marigold residents, they intend to make those precious moments last for the rest of their lives.

Director John Madden, who helmed Shakespeare in Love (1998) and saw it go on to win seven Oscars, brings us the sequel to his unexpected box office success of the first Marigold Hotel. This is no Shakespeare In Love, of course, but from the digital ink of screenwriter Ol Parker, we have some fine dialogues despite a lack of substantial plot lines; from the mouths of the seasoned and weathered come some refreshing viewpoints.

Even if you’re not starstruck, you have to tip your hat to this cast of talents, veteran actors whose average age works out to be 70; yes, I looked them up and did the math. Two-time Oscar winner Maggie Smith, Judi Dench (also Oscar winner and exactly 19 days older than Maggie in real life, as she said in the movie), Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup, Celia Imrie, Diana Hardcastle, and this time around, the newly-aged and still handsome Richard Gere, with David Strathairn also playing a small role.

The young proprietor of the retirement hotel in Jaipur, India, Sonny Kapoor, is eagerly planning for an expansion of his business venture, a second Marigold Hotel. Performed with much animation by Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire fame, Sonny is basically the foil, not just in his youthfulness and agile Bollywood dance skills, but in his overacting. My query: why is his Indian accent thicker than his mother’s (Lillete Dubey)? Nevertheless, watching the threesome, the soon-to-be-married Sonny and Sunaina (Tina Desai) plus the odd addition of Kushal (Shazad Latif), is energizing and mood altering. In the last act, having the Marigold residents join in the Bollywood dance at the wedding party is a treat, an acquired taste for some viewers I admit.

Under the direction of DP Ben Smithard, we see some colourful street scenes and beautiful sights. Following the constant panning camera between pillars and doorways, we become silent observers of the lives of these Marigold residents.

Throughout the movie, I’ve jotted down a few fine lines which, if spoken by the inexperienced, could well become platitudes. But here delivered by these professionals of film and stage, the one-liners are spot-on and memorable. Everyone has a story and there are a few notable dialogues, like this between the eldest pair swept by clashing undercurrents:

Muriel (Maggie Smith): You’re just nineteen days older than I am.
Evelyn (Judi Dench): Nineteen days is the life span of a wasp.

Exactly, time is relative. Fact is, time is what these Marigold residents don’t have. That’s what makes each of their story so pressing. At 79, Evelyn is faced with the choice of accepting or declining a new career as well as a genuine but shy suitor, Douglas (Bill Nighy). Her feeling in a nutshell:

“Sometimes it seems the difference between what we want and what we fear is the width of an eyelash.”

Good that she realizes just in time, and it’s clever how she conveys her message to Douglas at Sonny’s wedding. So, her new insight after much pondering:

“I thought, how many new lives can we have? Then I thought, as many as we like.”

And for Norman (Ronald Pickup) and Carol (Diana Hardcastle), it’s never too late to change as we see love turn them from promiscuity to monogamy. Well, even a faint attempt is encouraging.

As for Madge (Celia Imrie), she finally decides which direction she should take, left, right, or straight ahead, probably for the first time in her life.

Who can laugh at the old but themselves? Here when Jean (Penelope Wilton) suddenly reappears at the Marigold, I can associate her role as the sharp-tongued Isobel Crawley in Downton Abbey:

“I couldn’t resist the opportunity to come out and visit the old ruins, and see how the hotel was doing too.”

As a self-appointed tour guide in Jaipur, Douglas knows it’s never too old to step out into uncharted territory. Some good laughs there with his little helper in the background feeding him info or he’ll be just as lost as his tourist clients. As well, he is experiencing love like an insecure young chap. This is my favourite line, not only for the words but the way Nighy says them can make your heart ache:

“The great and terrible thing about life is there’s just so much bloody potential.” The subtext is brilliantly conveyed by his obvious frustration and agitated demeanour.

Ah… “There is no present like the time” [sic, exactly]

Time is a gift and a torment when you’re only given a limited portion under the low-hanging clouds of mortality. Here’s the poignant scene at the end. It belongs to Muriel (Maggie Smith), could well be foreshadowing what we will see in Season 6 of Downton Abbey. Her voiceover is full of pathos:

“There is no such thing as an ending; just a place where you leave the story.”

Of course there are flaws in the movie. But just like wrinkles, you’ve come to overlook them while admiring the person. Call it an escape or a two-hour vacation, The Second, Best Exotic Hotel offers a fun and gratifying ride.

 ~ ~ ~ Ripples


Related Posts on Ripple Effects:

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012)

The Lunchbox (2013): A Meal that Binds

Downton Abbey Season 5 Finale

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

30 thoughts on “The Second, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015)”

  1. I would watch this team read the phone book for two hours. How much more fun to watch them in the lush, sensual and exotic settings of India and follow these old friends (with the emphasis on the ‘friends’ and not the ‘old’) as they continue their life journeys. Two weeks ago I was having dinner at an Indian restaurant out east and the food was so remarkable in its spicy nuance. There were the fragrances of the spice, the heat of both the spice and the temperature, the cool, neutralizing raita, the crisp naan and flavorful tandoori bread. When I think of the food and then think of these characters I grew to love in the first movie, I see great similarity. Spice, crispiness, cool and neutralizing, warm and fragrant.

    I will try to remember these sensations when I see this film. Alas, if only they sold this at the theatre instead of popcorn, it would be quite perfect! Thank you for not breaking my hopes and expectations for this sequel!


    1. Jeanie,

      I look forward to your gastronomy post! This is an enticing restaurant review. 😉 Yes, I really like this second one, even though there isn’t much substantial story lines, just looking at the cast is rewarding enough. And they do have some good lines to deliver. I’ve seen it twice. My first time was at a preview. And I must say those dancers did a wonderful opening for the movie, rousing the audience to what’s ahead. Waiting for your input after you’ve seen the movie.


  2. I absolutely loved this movie… it was as good, if not a little better than the first one. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect in the first movie and with this one we know what is to come. Quite true that the cast is delicious and lovely to watch on screen no matter what they are doing. Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton are so much fun to watch and I loved the interaction with Judi Dench also.
    Thanks for reviewing such a lovely film. I have recommended it to many! 🙂


    1. Courtney,

      Glad you’ve enjoyed it too. I know it could be an acquired taste for some. But for me, these charming veterans don’t have to ‘act’, they just need to be there and charisma exudes. My fave is Bill Nighy… love his self-deprecating mannerism and poise. The addition of Richard Gere is ideal casting. As for the charming pair of Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, from my prep. for this post, the 19 days older line is true in real life too.
      Thanks for stopping by the pond and throwing in your two pebbles. 😉


  3. Thanks for this review Arti. I think I enjoyed the first one more – we re-watched it a few days after seeing the second one (which I saw on my birthday with husband and daughter – a lovely outing for a birthday). I think this script – despite those wonderful lines you shared – was a little more predictable (the hotel financiers, the jealousy theme etc). But, oh those actors. They are such a joy to watch. The fragility of the Penelope Wilton character, and of Bill Nighy. The way they can all convert so much with eyes and mouths. We were all just bowled over (as we expected to). I’d watch those actors watch paint dry I reckon.


    1. WG,

      I admit it’s been a long while since I saw the first one. Haven’t seen it lately. But I knew I’d enjoyed this one when I first saw it at the theatre (have seen it twice). Those Bollywood dancers did warm us up to embrace this one. I know this may not be so well thought out and serious as the first, but I’ve enjoyed its ‘looseness’, the spontaneity and less scripted… so it seemed. And I love many of the lines. And you’re right, predictable, as most, or all, romantic comedies are. These are pros, and yes, despite the thin plot lines, they deliver. It’s a pleasure to just watch them… ah… do nothing. 😉


      1. I bet the Bollywood dancers were fun. The first time I saw Bollywood (on movies, not live) I was surprised by how much fun I thought it was. I think that’s the reason I really rather enjoy Bride and Prejudice. I hear what you are saying about the Second one, though I didn’t feel it was less scripted I must say. Still, it was joyful and I’d recommend anyone but curmudgeons to go see it!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved it too Arti.. that’s the thing about British movies, they feature ‘real’ people, and of course every one of those actors is brilliant.. Judy Dench is marvelous! Loved the Bollywood dancing too, all in all a very entertaining movie.


    1. Grace,

      Yes, I’m partial to British actors, you can say. Their experience on stage is always an asset. And in films, they know how to hold back their ‘acting’ and just be naturals. The young star Dev Patel definitely could have learned from them.


  5. A little better than the first one you say? I liked the first one so very much I cringed when I heard there was a sequel, why ruin a good thing? But it sounds like it wasn’t ruined so now I look forward to some fine entertainment when I get the chance to see it.


    1. Stefanie,

      Let’s just say the first one is a dramedy and this one is purely romantic comedy. It may be less refined and thought-out in depth as the first one, but it’s for its ‘looseness’ that I particularly enjoyed. No, there are only the old ruins, but the whole show isn’t ruined. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Another blogging friend reviewed this movie and she said that it was not as good as the first one, so I was not sure about seeing it. Now after reading your review I think that I need to catch it. I like the actors anyway and if they have some Bollywood dancing, that would be nice. There was Bollywood dancing at my daughter’s wedding (her in-laws are from the state of Kerala, India) and the dancing was terrific.


    1. VB,

      O then you’ll find this Indian wedding in the movie interesting and maybe something you can identify with. Hope you’ll enjoy the dance there. I think the young stars did a wonderful job in their dancing. The elderlies are admirable too, at least in their attempt to join them. 😉


  7. I just saw this today, and it was completely entrancing. The only recommendation I would have is that anyone who hasn’t seen the first film see it before going on to this one. There are little nuances in the interactions that are more understandable with a little background.

    We caught that “life span of a wasp” line, too, as did the whole audience — and we all laughed. I didn’t figure out a couple of plot twists until the end, and was surprised. I loved the dancing, and Richard Gere, and so much more. At one point, I became quite irritated with Sonny, but that, too, was a testament to how well he played his role.

    The only downside to the whole experience is that there wasn’t a good Indian restaurant nearby to go to after watching the film. We all wanted some good Indian food!


    1. Linda,

      You’re right about seeing the first one definitely will help one grasp the story a bit better and appreciate their behaviour more. I agree too that a couple of plot lines aren’t so clear. You see, I saw it twice, it’s the second time around that helped a lot. That’s the weakness I feel, the lack of clarity even with such a simple rom com. Anyway, don’t you think the cast is admirable? And yes, some good Indian food after would definitely enhance the experience. 😉


  8. This is a really an excellent review – it has definitely piqued my interest in the film.

    But I do wonder – will there ever be a movie where the ages will be able to interact seemlessly? Perhaps not; it’s just the way society is stacked up, youth goes one way, the elders the other. At least we are beyond the point where we can point to the screen and exclaim, “Oh, look: that 60+ woman is actually seeking a boyfriend! Isn’t she simply the sweetest and most eccentric old dear?”

    I’m not 60 yet, and I’m not seeking, but my hand can still make a pretty hard fist…


    1. Aubrey,

      I think this movie achieves what you’ve said, the ideal case: the different ages, the young and the old are put together to live out the stories together. You’ll find they do that quite seamlessly too. Yes, you must see this movie because it delivers such a harmonious scenario admirably. 😉


  9. Perhaps because we are taking our places in the ranks of the “seasoned and weathered” we both very much enjoyed both of these movies. Loved this quote: “There is no such thing as an ending; just a place where you leave the story.” Thanks for the interesting review!


    1. Barbara,

      Many more lovely quotes in there. And you’re right, those in the ranks of the “seasoned and weathered” would tend to be drawn to the appeal of this movie. But then again, I’m glad that the young and the old mingle quite well in the Marigold environs. That kind of camaraderie ought to be encouraged. 😉


      1. I’ve just checked it is the first one that was on tv and I saw that on an aeroplane journey a few years ago 😦
        is the second one only just on cinema? I’d like to know if the hotel becomes a success and Soni marries his girlfriend and if Judi Dench’s character gets together with the man whose wife that won’t go out leaves him?

        I watched a film about retired opera singers that was a bit like this, can’t remember what it was called now with Billy Connolly who was very funny.


        1. Charlotte, The 2nd Exotic Marigold is still in some cinemas. As for the movie you saw about the opera singers, it’s Quartet (2012) directed by Dustin Hoffman. There’s another movie you might like to see A Late Quartet, that’s about a string quartet in the last stretch of their career. You can find info here.


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