Review: “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” Is Charming Even if There Is Too Much Going On
Title: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Director: John Madden
Screenwriter: Ol Parker (screenplay)
Principal Cast: Dev Patel, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Celia Imrie, Diana Hardcastle, Donald Pickup, Richard Gere, and Tina Desai
Summary: As the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has only a single remaining vacancy – posing a rooming predicament for two fresh arrivals – Sonny pursues his expansionist dream of opening a second hotel. — via IMDB
When I heard I was going to see The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel I came up with a new genre name for this type of movie; a OON film or an Older Oscar Nominee film. The thing about movies that center around older characters is that anyone who is still working this late in the game is absolutely at the top of their game. That was one of the reasons I was even a little interested in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, even if I couldn’t remember the full title before seeing the movie.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel features a wonderful cast, with the standouts being Maggie Smith and Judi Dench, and while there is ultimately too much going on, the entire feature does come together to be surprisingly funny and charming.
As I said, this is a movie of aging Oscar nominees and they are the reason that this movie works. Maggie Smith is the best as she has some of the best one liners, and the way she judges everyone around her is just amazing. Any moment that she is on screen is great, but any scene she shares with Judi Dench is even better. If those two want to be in every movie for the rest of my life, I would be happy to listen to them snark with each other. They have great comedic timing and their banter is great. Bill Nighy’s plot with Judi Dench’s character is very sweet and it’s funny to watch them skirt around each other like teenagers with a crush, though their reasons for hesitation are very understandable. Richard Gere is mostly there to throw a wrench into things, even if it was a little easy to tell where his story was going. Celia Imrie, Diana Hardcastle and Donald Pickup make up the rest of the (mainly) older aged cast and they are all great.
The younger cast is made up primarily of Indian actors Dev Patel and Tina Desai. Their romance is one of the subplots that I wish would have had more screen time because it’s really the narrative that the entire movie is based on. Tasmin Greig is our other main cast member that is younger, but she doesn’t have much of a personality as she is more of a plot device. The entire enterprise feels very much like a Wes Anderson production. The dialogue is quirky and easy going, and the look feels very much like a movie or a storybook. Director John Madden and cinematographer Ben Smithard give the movie a very bright and lively feeling. The aesthetic of the movie is probably not what India is really like, though I can’t say that for myself since I haven’t been there. I was worried that British people in India would have some bad undercurrent of colonialism, but it wasn’t present.
Ultimately, though, I believe there is too much going on. I suppose that might be the point, that life doesn’t stop once you get to a certain age, but after awhile it became almost confusing as to who was doing what and when. Plot points are dropped without notice or acknowledgement, which is a shame because some of them are interesting. The movie could have easily dropped several of the side stories and still be just as fun to watch. The many different plot points kept things moving at an easy going pace, even if it was feeling bloated and overly long by the end. It wasn’t enough to ruin the movie for me, but it did make several stories and characters feel extremely underdeveloped.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is an alluring film that might get bogged down by too many subplots, but the movie as a whole works very well. The absolutely great performances by it’s older cast, with great backup by its younger members, envoke the best of Wes Anderson movies. Are you fan of The Grand Budapest Hotel? Than you will definitely enjoy The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.