Following the runaway success of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011), director John Madden (Shakespeare In Love) and screenwriter Ol Parker bring us second helpings in the form of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The sequel picks up more or less where the first left off: a group of British retirees (played by an ensemble cast including Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy and Ronald Pickup) jaded by life in old Blighty seek refuge at a charming hotel for the elderly in Jaipur, India. This time around, we see the guests have settled into life in India, acclimatising to the ex-pat dating scene and even finding jobs.
Ostensibly, the plot is that Muriel (Maggie Smith) has joined forces with the hotel’s over-zealous proprietor Sonny (Dev Patel) to seek American investment for the hotel’s expansion: Step in new guest and suspected hotel inspector Guy (Richard Gere). Meanwhile, Sonny’s wedding plans are almost scuppered by rivalry and jealousy.
Is the plot all over the place? Yes. Does the plot really matter? No – because it is mere set dressing. The real pleasures of this film are to be found in simply sitting back, switching off and enjoying being in the presence of a charming ensemble cast, who have all done better elsewhere and are not being particularly taxed here. Between the lush locations (L.A., Mumbai and Jaipur) sumptuous costumes and Bollywood-style dance-offs (Sonny’s wedding), the cast of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel must have had a blast making this film, which is probably why it feels much like browsing a travel brochure.
It’s true that The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – like its precursor – is full of wall-to-wall clichés, characterisation that seems to go nowhere and flim sy, recycled plotlines. But, it is harmless and there are a still a few chuckles to be found in this light, bubbly confection of a film – perfect for lazy Sunday afternoon viewing.