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Byron Shire
September 24, 2021

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

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Indophiles will tell you that India is not really like this – but in the same breath they will concede that, well, yes it is. The country is an enigma, embracing at every minute the ancient past and the cutting edge of tomorrow.

Director John Madden’s sequel to his whimsical but wonderful and enormously popular (especially with the old fogeys among us) new-Raj dramedy leans heavily towards tourist-brochure imagery and relies probably too much on convoluted Indian English for its gags, but he has at his disposal a cast that is clearly enamoured with its cheesy screenplay.

Eight months have passed since we last saw them and all the gang are back – Bill Nighy and Judi Dench, though pining for each other, still haven’t ‘done it’, Diana Hardcastle and Ronald Pickup are shacked up together, Celia Imre has become the femme fatale at the Viceroy Club, and Maggie Smith is firmly entrenched as the crotchety mentor of the soon-to-be-married, entrepreneurial Sonny (Dev Patel).

Enter Richard Gere as a hotel inspector – or is he? – to make eyes at Sonny’s mother (Lillete Dubey).

The story to begin with, of cashed-up English retirees living in a converted palace in Jaipur, was fanciful enough, but to take it even further and have some of them actually finding paid employment is over the odds. But who cares?

We are floating in a romance bubble that that will take no account of such an implausible scenario and the mood has moved on from nostalgia to buoyant, late-life, almost preppy optimism.

The only problem I have with it is in the casting, for, much as they are both good in their parts, I simply cannot see Nighy and Dench as an item. Otherwise, for all its predictable plot points (some are very transparent), I was completely taken by surprise at the resolution of Sonny’s dilemma.

It is everything I hoped for after ‘Marigold 1’ – and what’s a movie set in India without an ecstatic dance routine to seal the deal?

~ John Campbell

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