Friday, June 26, 2015

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: A Review (Review #724)


The Older Folks At Home...

I think it would be clear to think that a movie about a group of retirees finding life and romance in India would not make for entertaining film-going, but The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel defied the odds.  Now, thanks to the success of this film, we managed to get something extremely rare: a sequel to a film starring a group of people who are, with the exception of two of its stars, well over 50. 

And who says Hollywood ignores the senior set?

For better or worse, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel seems almost blissfully unaware of how its title opens itself up to some awful puns.  It seems blissfully unaware of a lot of things, and while it's tempting to say the reason is because of growing senility, I think overall the film is slight, entertaining in a somewhat cutesy way, but below the original.

Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) and Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith) form the oddest odd couple: the chipper Indian youth and the dour British senior.  However, the success of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Aged and Beautiful has acquired a lot of attention, particularly in America, where the two go to sell the idea of a second hotel to potential investors.  Ty Burley (David Strathairn) will look into it, but he will send his 'guy' to do a secret inspection.

Back in India, the furtive romance of Evelyn (Judi Dench) and Douglas (Bill Nighy) continues.  She has found her niche as a go-between for fabrics, he as a bumbling tour guide who needs children to secretly feed him information.  They still can't quite get together, their mutual shyness getting in the way.  That is no problem for Madge (Celia Imrie), who is the mistress of two Indian maharajahs, squired from one to the other.  Both have asked her to marry them, but she cannot decide.  Neither can ladies' man Norman (the appropriately named Ronald Pickup), who is feeling his way towards a regular relationship with Carol (Diana Hardcastle). 

Into this swirl enters Guy Chambers (Richard Gere), whom Sonny immediately knows is the inspector because Ty said he'd send 'some Guy' (obviously).  Sonny becomes excessively courteous to a puzzled Guy, and quite dismissive of another guest, Lavinia (Tasmin Grieg), constantly belittling and insulting her, to the horror of Muriel (who constantly has to save Sonny from himself).  Sonny also has a hysterical way with his fiancée, Sunaina (Tina Desai).  He is constantly jealous of his frenemy who is teaching them a Bollywood-type wedding dance and who bought up the building he was eyeing.  In short, Sonny makes a right mess of things.

Fortunately, he has his mother (Lillete Dubey) to help.  He essentially pimps her out to Guy, convinced it will help in the evaluation.  It doesn't, but a tentative romance starts between them.  In the end, Evelyn and Douglas do get together, Norman is forced to dump the unfaithful Carol, Madge chooses neither, and Sonny & Sunaina do marry...and celebrate the opening of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

The real dancing fool.
While The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel attempts to recapture the magic of the original, something was a bit off.  I think it is primarily because a great deal of time is spent with Patel's Sonny.  It's curious that for being British by birth and upbringing, Patel is asked to do a lot of Bollywood numbers.  He seems affable enough, but by goodness was Sonny an idiot.  Over and over I found him to be borderline moronic.  His insistence that Guy HAD to be the inspector...because his name is 'Guy' makes me question whether Sonny can function.  His dismissal of Lavinia is equally ridiculous (I can't imagine that any hotelier would be so brazenly insulting to any guest, especially in front of others, even those who liked him).

As a side note, you'd have to be pretty dim to not guess who the real inspector was, and I wonder whether Ol Parker's screenplay was meant to be that obvious. 

Sonny's paranoia over his frenemy, his clumsy way of dealing with people, his virtual prostituting of his own mother, all done with this excessively cheerful, upbeat manner?  Part of me wondered whether the only thing left for him to do was to go up to a guest and say, "Thank you. Come again".  His whole manner made me think that it was good that The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel had him in small doses.  There is only so much of the overeager but thoroughly stupid Sonny I could take, and the film gave me an overload.

For a movie about older people, we spent far too much time with the 25-year-old Patel.

I think sometimes the comedy was a bit forced, particularly with the Norman storyline of him accidentally hiring a hitman to take care of Carol.  Somehow, in all that bumbling, he finds her unfaithfulness, and I don't know if that worked either. Neither with the Madge storyline (she was sleeping with two men) or throwing in the horrid Jean (Penelope Wilton), Douglas' soon-to-be ex, in what I thought was a contrivance. 

That isn't to say The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel isn't without some charms.  Dench and Nighy continue to be charming as the older romantics.  They were a highlight.  Smith too was wonderful as the sensible Muriel (though the suggestion that she now has some illness to create some form of drama wasn't working for me). 

In short, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is tolerable (though at two hours, it feels so much longer).   There are some genuine moments of comedy, some tender moments, but they had to play second fiddle to some really dull and bizarre moments too.  Still, can one really argue with a big Bollywood number involving a group of old white people?


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