The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Directed By: John Madden

Starring: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup, Tena Desae, David Strathairn, Tamsin Greig, and Richard Gere

Independent films are back on the market!  With the awards season having reached its conclusion, it's time for the nominees to begin trickling out of theaters and for fresh original content to begin trickling in.  To get things started, we're going back to a familiar place with a few familiar faces.  We're going back to Jaipur, India and a lovely retirement community there for westerners.  We're going back to The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

The establishment of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has been a rousing success for the young Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) and his fiancĂ©e Sunaina (Tena Desae).  It's been so successful that Sonny and his co-manager Ms. Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith) have been scouting the Supreme Quality Hotel as an attractive second property.  For financing, they seek the support of corporation known as Evergreen and its CEO Ty Burley (David Strathairn).  Reluctant to invest in Marigold without surveying their business, Burley says that he is sending his guy to check it out.  Anxiously awaiting the inspector upon his return, Sonny soon welcomes two new guests to the hotel, Guy Chambers (Richard Gere) and Lavinia Beech (Tamsin Greig).

For the original hotel guests, love is in the air. Having failed to divorce his wife Jean (Penelope Wilton) yet, Douglas Ainslie (Bill Nighy) is still chasing after the ever-elusive Evelyn Greenslade (Judi Dench).  Still, he manages to make a living as a tour guide in the city.  For her part, Evelyn continues to fearfully and actively avoid the prospect of getting serious with Douglas, and the travel her new job requires certainly isn't helping.  Conversely, Norman Cousins (Ronald Pickup) is ready to settle down with his girlfriend Carol Parr (Diana Hardcastle).  There's just one problem.  She isn't ready to do the same.  Finally, we have Madge Hardcastle (Celia Imrie).  She has two suitors asking for her hand in marriage and has no clue what she wants to do.  She just works away at the Viceroy Club with Norman.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a film that can be characterized by its peaceful setting, its heartfelt narrative, and its impressive collection of veteran British thespians.  Fortunately for us, the same can be said of its sugary sequel despite its predictable nature.  Returning to the world he created back in 2012, director John Madden gives us an earnest look at this next phase in the lives of his characters.  With all the charms of its predecessor, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is one entertaining romp with all our favorite elderly actors.

The cast once again rises to the occasion in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  For her part as Muriel Donnelly, Dame Maggie Smith is the heart and soul of the movie.  Offering her usual caustic wit and a number of the film's money quotes, Smith rises above her fellow cast members and steals the show.  For her part as Evelyn Greenslade, Judi Dench offers us an older woman acting as if she's much younger than she really is and as if she has more time.  It's an entertaining yet fittingly aggravating performance.  Her romantic interest Bill Nighy does a solid job as Douglas Ainslie.  He's the same goofy gent we know and love.

As Norman Cousins, Ronald Pickup is now a lovesick puppy.  No longer offering the spunky character of the original, he gives us a man whose heart has been touched and who easily becomes jealous.  Still full of spice, Celia Imrie steps into the background as the indecisive Madge Hardcastle.  Nonetheless, her story is rather entertaining.  For his part as Guy Chambers, Richard Gere gives us, well, Richard Gere.  Enough said.  We even have Penelope Wilton back on camera as Jean Ainslie.  She still skillfully wears an ostentatious facade that masks a dissatisfied spirit.  Finally, we have Dev Patel reprising his role as Sonny Kapoor.  He's once again the silly character bringing one laugh after another.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel gets the job done and is a nice way to welcome moviegoers back to the world of indies.  This enchanting comedy gets a strong 0.06% rating.  Have a few glasses of Zinfandel with this one.