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THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL is the inevitable sequel to the surprisingly popular and lucrative British romantic comedy set in a crumbling Indian hotel filled with English residents. Some had come for a holiday - some because they could make their pensions stretch further. But all were on an exploration of what it meant to be in love at an old age - what does it mean when your kids leave home and you realise you have nothing in common with your partner? How does it feel when you find yourself redundant from your children's lives? Is it possible to have a second chance at love or a second career in your sixties and seventies?
The second film picks up where the original left off and there's an elegant and concise introduction to the hotel as its current owner pitches to a US investor for an expansion plan into the second hotel of the title. We then have a roll call which again quickly refreshes our memories of the guests. But really this film assumes you've watched the first and continues its stories, so I'd strongly recommend you don't come into it cold!
The story then plays as a kind of portmanteau film showing the various love stories among the residents. We have Judi Dench and Bill Nighy in a tentative courtship filled with nervousness and vulnerability. We have Celia Imrie as the gold-digger faced with the proposals of two rich men but finding herself ambivalent toward both. I particularly liked the way this story was handled with a very delicate and subtle acknowledgement of love at its end. Next comes Ronald Pickup's scoundrelous womaniser who, in one of the more comedic strands, thinks he's inadvertently put a hit on his girlfriend. And finally we have new entrant Richard Gere, an author but maybe also a secret hotel inspector, wooing the intractable Mrs Kapoor (Lilette Dubey).
Holding all this together is the character of Sonny Kapoor, played by Dev Patel of HBO's The Newsroom. In the first film his implacable optimism gave the film energy and much of its humour. In this film he has won his girl, Sunaina, and the marriage is about to take place, but he becomes jealous of her friend Kush. As a result, while still a very funny role, Sonny is more muted and the film as a consequence more sad. It looses a bit of its fizz and times felt over-long. Also, just because this film is set in India, do we really need a cheesy Bollywood style dance scene?
So, overall, this film is less energetic than the original but also lacks the profundity of the High Court Judge's relationship. But it's still gently funny, and earnest, and warm-hearted. It's hard to take against any film that believes so firmly in second chances, and love, and good people being rewarded with good things.
THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL has a running time of 122 minutes and is rated PG. The film is on release in Australia, the UK, Ireland and New Zealand. It opens on March 6th in Italy & the USA; on March 12th in Kazakhstan, Russia, Austria & Sweden; on March 19th in Denmark, Iraq, the Netherlands, Portugal, Singapore and Lithuania; on March 25th in Belgium, Greece, Spain, Finland & Norway; on April 1st in France; on April 2nd in Germany; on May 7th in Argentina and on May 8th in Poland.