The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Year: 2015
Production Co: Blueprint Pictures
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Director: John Madden
Writer: Ol Parker
Cast: Dev Patel, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Judi Dench, Celia Imrie, Richard Gere, Tina Desai, Penelope Wilton

The story is the merest thread upon which to hang the ambience and mood of this love-in-the-senior years/love letter-to-India tale. Most of the personalities from the first film are back, and some more big names are thrown in to add to the comic drama and romance.

As the film opens, Sonny (Dev Patel) and Muriel (Maggie Smith) are travelling to the US to talk to a big hotel chain about investing in the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel so they can expand to a new location – they're constantly booked out and running out of space.

After the CEO (David Strathairn) agrees to look the place over, two strangers arrive who could be the anonymous location scout Sonny and Muriel are expecting. In between trying to put their best foot forward and purchase a new property that'd be perfect for a second outlet, Sonny tries to hold things together with his fiance (the delicious Tina Desai), even while the guy who might be undermining his property acquisition seems to have eyes on his girl.

All the while, the longtime residents of the hotel continue to fall in and out of love as they go about their lives. Douglas (Bill Nighy) is still pining for Evelyn (Judi Dench), and she's becoming so good at sourcing fabrics for a local merchant she's offered a very fancy job for an international clothing company that will take her away from the relationship with Douglas she hardly dares to embark upon.

One of the new guests, Guy (Richerd Gere), claims to be a divorcee writing a book but falls head over heels for Sonny's overbearing mother, and Madge (Celia Imrie) thinks she might have to choose between the two wealthy suitors both wooing her, all the while starting to notice how good hearted her humble driver is.

It's all a parfait like the first film, not altogether nourishing but all about the flavour, with rushes of sweet and enough sadness to keep it from being cloying. It's well constructed and does a fine enough job keeping multiple characters and story strands in the air, and even though it's all a little bit too convenient and staged, it's hard not to be won over by the charm of actors who have to do more than just be physically beautiful.

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