Arts & Culture · Film & Television

Movie Review: “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” Lives Up to Its Name—Unfortunately

And, true to form, we do get not one but several happy endings. Norman and Carol commit to their commitment, deciding to give monogamy a chance. Madge chooses her kind-hearted driver over her two wealthy admirers. Evelyn and Douglas quietly declare their feelings. Even Mama G ends up with Richard Gere. (Sorry, Madge.) And Sonny and Sunaina’s wedding is a Bollywood extravaganza.

The most bittersweet note in the first Exotic Marigold was the death of Graham (Tom Wilkinson). In The Second Best, we get some rather heavy-handed hints that Muriel won’t long be with us. Before leaving, she gets the hotel in order and facilitates as many of the film’s happy endings as she can. She’s startled by the unexpected arrival of American investor Ty Burley (the underutilized—but so very appealing as he ages—David Strathairn). It appears that Ty has come (as part of a rather unlikely daytrip to India) to help Sonny purchase his next property and to pay his respects to Muriel.

If the theme of the first movie was “Everything will turn out all right in the end,” the theme of this second one is to savor what time we have or, as one character puts it: “There’s no present like the time.”

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel may be a shadow of the former film. But there’s a fine reason to see it. Several fine reasons, actually. The cast is absolutely first-rate, having so much fun with even the most hackneyed bits that we can’t help but smile as we go along for the ride. We relish everything from Judi Dench’s quiet elegance to Bill Nighy’s gentlemanly bumbling, from the lusty Celia Imrie to the lovestruck Ronald Pickup. Maggie Smith’s zingers alone are worth the price of admission (especially if you, like me, are already mourning the demise of Downton after next season).

With so many silly plot twists, The Second Best offers less opportunity to enjoy the sights and sounds of India than the original movie did. But there’s still enough to make me consider retiring there a better option than Florida. Or as Sonny says, “Why die here when I can die there?”

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  • Susanna Gaertner March 30, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    After reading so many negative reviews I am delighted to read this one, which reveals the flaws but also the still and forever enjoyable energy of this franchise (will there be a third Marigold hotel?).
    Thanks, Alexandra, for this astute review!

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