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The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

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The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel opens with ebullient Sonny (Dev Patel) keen to expand his business.

He has flown to the US with his manager, the irrepressible Muriel (Maggie Smith’s Cockney is a far cry from her Downton dowager), in tow. Sonny has his eye on just the right building back in Jaipur, and now he’s seeking investment from the Evergreen company, whose business revolves around catering for those in their mature years. Evergreen’s boss says he might be interested, so will send an inspector.

Back at the Best Exotic Marigold, all the favourites are still resident and a few have joined the local workforce. As Sonny boasts, they only check out when they check out from life itself. Consequently, there is just one room spare when two new guests materialise: the dashing Guy Chambers (Richard Gere) is only 64 and keen to write a novel in early retirement, while the even younger Lavinia (Tamsin Greig) wants to examine the place for her mother.

Sonny is convinced Chambers must be the hotel inspector, but the love of his life (now his fiancée) is not so sure. Sunaina (Tina Desai) thinks there’s something fishy about Lavinia and wonders if Sonny isn’t making a big mistake preferring Guy.

Added to Sonny’s woes is his lack of practise for the wedding dance. Enter Sunaina’s brother’s best friend, handsome Kushal, who is not only a choreographer but also a property investor. How Sonny’s nuptials and expansion plans proceed – amid, of course, the various geriatric guests’ affairs (of heart and health) – is the stuff of the movie.

Structured into sections of formal and familial rites, the cultural aspects are colourful and interesting. Intertwined are the relationships established in the First Exotic: Douglas (Bill Nighy) is still smitten with Evelyn (Judi Dench), who is now employed as a material buyer. He wants to introduce her to his daughter, coming for a guest lecture, but she has brought along her mother (Penelope Wilton, another Downton cast member), and she wants something of her estranged husband.

Meanwhile, Norman and Carol are still learning the boundaries of commitment, and the ever-popular Madge (Celia Imrie) is caught between two high-profile Indian lovers.

Worse for cross-cultural relations is the fact that Chambers fancies Sonny’s mother, and her son expects her to “take one for the team”. Whatever the story’s English expats may say and do with each other, it is the American’s wooing of the traditional Indian widow that seems less than respectful in so many ways.

Gere’s inclusion is clearly an effort to move this film into the US market, and it smacks of desperation. Reunite with the Exotic, by all means, but concentrate on the dynamic between Dench and Nighy – they are the couple that count, after all.


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