Film Review: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Following on from the events of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012), this unlikely sequel reunites us with the same British retirees who, having travelled to India to take up residence in a supposedly newly restored – but as it turned out, empty and rundown – hotel, have decided to stay and make the place their final home. 

Weak film, even worse sequel
Octogenarian Muriel (Smith) – who went into business with Sonny (Patel), the hotel’s young proprietor – is now looking to expand their brand to a second site while courting corporate investors from the US. 

When a surprise mystery guest arrives, in the form of Richard Gere, all manner of narrative contrivances ensue. Sonny pegs Guy (Gere) for a corporate spy while the hotel’s female residents engage in endless fawning – all except for the one woman Guy shows any interest in: Sonny’s mother. 

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel fails on its own terms – that is to say that it doesn’t just make a weak film but a poor sequel too. 

While the first entry was at least serviceable candy floss, it did have some rare moments that were genuinely touching. 

Most were in relation to Tom Wilkinson’s character who had returned to India, not only to die of a terminal illness but to see an Indian man with whom he’d fallen in love with as a teenager to bid this old friend a final farewell. 

The sequel carries none of this weight (which would have helped offset its abundance of candy floss), and so far as I can tell, none of the returning characters even make mention of Wilkinson’s character. 

It’s a telling omission underlining the vacuity of this second venture.

Very little gold for Mari
Of the film’s few merits, Thomas Newman’s score is surprisingly rich and understated, while less surprisingly, the sunlit Indian landscapes are stunning and the returning ensemble make the best of the material – in particular Dench, Nighy and Smith. Nighy’s bumbling attempts to cement his relationship with Dench’s character are effective if only because they refer to the darker scenes between he and his hen-pecking wife (Wilton) in the original (she returns this time in order to request a divorce). 

Smith gets to endlessly ruminate on, mostly in voiceover, the importance of seizing the moment and the time-wasting perils of self-pity and procrastination. This worldly wisdom is contrasted with Smith’s tendency to win all the laughs (of which there are few) with her potty mouth and cantankerous lines like “Just because I look at you when you speak, doesn’t mean you should presume I’m interested” etc. Attempts to sell Smith and Patel as a old/young double act are less successful with Patel adding to his growing list of frustratingly uneven performances (see Chappie – or rather, don’t).

The Cliff Richard of films
While no masterpiece, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was a friendly enough vehicle for its stars that pandered to – well, your mum. 

It was the Boney M of British Cinema in 2012 – but at least it had a pulse. This sequel – tepid, safe, vapid – is like this year’s Cliff Richard. Your mum might still like it – but you’ll be hard pressed to share her enthusiasm. 

The once empty Exotic Marigold Hotel may be fully booked this time around, but the film is entirely vacant.

Dir: John Madden; UK/USA comedy/drama, 2015, 122 mins; Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Richard Gere 
Premiered March 19
Playing Nationwide


  • How internationals can benefit from joining trade unions

    How internationals can benefit from joining trade unions

    Being part of a trade union is a long-established norm for Danes. But many internationals do not join unions – instead enduring workers’ rights violations. Find out how joining a union could benefit you, and how to go about it.

  • Internationals in Denmark rarely join a trade union

    Internationals in Denmark rarely join a trade union

    Internationals are overrepresented in the lowest-paid fields of agriculture, transport, cleaning, hotels and restaurants, and construction – industries that classically lack collective agreements. A new analysis from the Workers’ Union’s Business Council suggests that internationals rarely join trade unions – but if they did, it would generate better industry standards.

  • Novo Nordisk overtakes LEGO as the most desirable future workplace amongst university students

    Novo Nordisk overtakes LEGO as the most desirable future workplace amongst university students

    The numbers are especially striking amongst the 3,477 business and economics students polled, of whom 31 percent elected Novo Nordisk as their favorite, compared with 20 percent last year.