The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Sequels are always tricky and normally flops.  John Madden has managed to pull off anything but second-best in his return to Jaipur and our jolly geriatrics living out their twilight years in Sonny’s Marigold hotel. With the engagement and impending marriage of proprietor Sonny (Dev Patel) to Sunaina (Tina Desai) as the main event in a plethora of jostling plot lines, he has infused the drama with all the traditional elements of an Indian wedding: costume, singing and dancing which, combined with an international cast, give us a delightful amalgam of Bollywood/Hollywood/Pinewood. A clever marketing ploy if nothing else!

Sonny’s impending marriage seems like an annoying blip interfering with his dreams of expanding the group with the purchase of the Second Best Marigold Hotel; he looks to the US for investment – cue for his new co-manager Muriel (Maggie Smith) to pontificate on how to make a decent cup of tea to the bemused American CEO. Smith’s now customary Downton dowager sang froidis in full throttle here.

The advent of an anonymous inspector to check the investment potential is a good excuse to introduce Hollywood star Richard Gere as the suspect, Guy, but coincides with the arrival of yet another stranger in the form of frumpy English Lavinia, superbly played by Husband’s heart-throb Tamsin Greig.  As Sonny fawns over Guy in true pantomime style, we are shouting the equivalent of ‘Look behind you!’ while he ignores the steely Lavinia at his peril. Not belittling Husband’s pin-up, I do find her style rather repetitive, whether it is EpisodesFriday Night Dinner,Green Wingor Love Soup(we have seen them all, you see).

While Sonny exudes that very Indian quality of nauseating servility in such situations, he also displays that other classic male characteristic: jealousy. Convinced that Sunaina is enamoured of her brother’s best friend, Kushal (Shazad Latif), and also that he is out to get him, he charges headlong into a series of ill-considered actions and behaviours which threaten not only his business but his wedding plans.

Meanwhile the activities of the other residents complicate the story:  Evelyn and Douglas (Judi Dench and Bill Nighy) are now supplementing their income with local jobs, Dench as a buyer of fabric, Nighy as a tour guide with an earphone connection to a small boy relaying his patter, who is liable to distraction from his football playing chums; Madge (Celia Imrie) is to-ing and fro-ing between her two rich suitors and confiding in her driver; Norman and Carol (Ronald Pickup and Diana Hardcastle) are going through ups and downs in their relationship; Muriel is miserable as ever and has health worries; and Richard Gere naturally adds that frisson for the older woman – not only for Madge. Despite the age gap between Nighy and Dame Judi – she is a good 15 years his senior – they make a rather sweet couple, if only they were brave enough. Indeed, re-meeting our retirees is like the comfort of an old cardigan, warm and cosy. Only the younger generation intrude on that familiarity, with Sonny’s immaturity grating on my nerves, although some might find this sort of excruciating humour funny. However, as it’s Dev Patel  – who did a lovely sofa with Dame Judi on Graham Norton – I will forgive him. 

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