Settling For "Second Best?" You'll Likely Enjoy It As Much As The First
“The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is a sequel to the surprise hit “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (2012), which was based on the novel by Deborah Moggah. Directed by John Madden, this movie takes place a few months after the events of the first film. The familiar cast of characters have settled into their new lives while Sonny, played again by Dev Patel, and his co-manager Muriel, played by Maggie Smith, try their best to expand the hotel by opening branches as Sonny also juggles a wedding, and the other characters deal with the usual struggles of love and identity.
Even more than the first film, “Second Best” does a great job illustrating the wanderlust theme that runs rampant in this series. There is always more to experience, always more to do. Life can happen as many times as you decide. However the lofty themes are delivered with a bit of a heavy hand at times. Characters will spend a good five minutes on a monologue about love or life while the movie pauses around them. Those scenes feel forced and out of place. And even though the characters are well developed and engaging such as Bill Nighy’s lovably bumbling Douglas, Celia Imrie’s scandalous Madge, or even Ronald Pickup’s mischievous Norman, they sometimes come off as childish. It’s as if being India has made them revert in age. Maggie Smith does an incredible job once again as the lovable curmudgeon Muriel and Dev Patel hugs the line of annoying and charming with the stubborn but driven Sonny Kapoor. The mentor/student relationship they have is perhaps the strongest point of the film.
And while the movie is highly performance driven, the direction is strong here as well. The way the actors are framed in many of the shots often a triangle of faces or diagonal lines of eyes between characters, are striking and lend to the drama and/or comedy unfolding. Blocking was also very well done, though that can be attributed to the great performances. The setting, the music, the visuals, all lent to the film looking great as well. And even though the story came off cliché at times, the characters seemed like children at points, and the dialogue became too on the nose, “The Second Best Marigold Hotel” still succeeds in telling a little charming tale that can put a smile on your face.