September 28, 2020

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Marigold Hotel sequel worth checking into

Dev Patel and Tina Desai (foreground) in colourful, lively The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

FOX SEARCHLIGHT

Dev Patel and Tina Desai (foreground) in colourful, lively The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 6/3/2015 (2033 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The sequel status of this followup to the 2011 hit The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel necessitates the words "second best" right there in the title.

In fact, it's a film very much on par with the original. Befitting its late-middle-age-to-elderly characters, it's representative of a certain kind of old-fashioned, well performed, handsomely mounted melodrama featuring an array of colourful characters.

As in the first film, when the going gets a little too soapy or overly maudlin, the cast of mostly old pros elevate the material with the sheer force of their collective skill.

In the last film, a collection of elderly English retirees, finding it difficult to make ends meet, emigrate to the infinitely affordable Jaipur, India, where they take up residence in the titular run-down facility. Against the odds, most of them make a home for themselves, revitalized by the country, and creating friendships among themselves.

Particularly renewed is Muriel (Maggie Smith), a brusque bigot when we first met, and now a loyal confederate and adviser to the hotel's effusive and ambitious manager Sonny (Dev Patel). The film opens in California where Sonny and Muriel go on a mission to drum up some financial support for a second Marigold Hotel Sonny plans to build with the help of an American corporation.

His mission goes awry back in Jaipur. Sonny is about to get married to the beautiful Sunaina (Tina Desai), but he perceives a threat in a competitor who not only seems to be vying for Sunaina's affection, but is actively seeking to buy the rundown hotel Sonny has designated as the next acquisition in his nascent empire.

Back among the residents, the widowed Evelyn (Judi Dench) finds herself working as a purchaser for a textile company, an occupation that keeps her away from Douglas (Bill Nighy), her would-be suitor in the wake of his separation from his prickly Jean (Penelope Wilton).

We find the hormonally active Madge (Celia Imrie) juggling two different lovers, and trying to decide to which she'll commit. (If you saw the comedy Calendar Girls a few years back, you might remember Imrie as a timid matron pressed into service as a nude model. It's delightful how she changes it up as an older woman of supreme sexual self-confidence.)

In the most disposable subplot, the former playboy Norman (Ronald Pickup) finds the roles distressingly reversed when he discovers the object of his affection has been playing the field.

The ringer in all this is an American character. Guy Chambers (Richard Gere) is a would-be novelist who has come to India to get to work on his first book. He is simultaneously distracted by Sonny, who believes him to be a scout sent by his would-be American investors, and Sonny's beautiful widowed mother (Lillete Dubey).

Gere's presence strikes an off-key note. It seems the whole flow of the film is interrupted by his Leading Man presence. He just can't seem to enliven screenwriter Ol Parker's dialogue with the acumen of his English co-stars. Also, the film doesn't make the effort to show that Guy, too, is a stranger in a strange land. (Apparently, American men can make themselves at home simply by hitting on whatever beautiful woman is at hand.)

Still, director John Madden, who helmed the first film, keeps things moving briskly. He fills the screen with colour and spectacle when required, but also knows well enough that training the camera on a Judi Dench or a Maggie Smith is quite enough to captivate our attention, thank you very much.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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