If you did not see the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which I enjoyed, you will be, I suspect, hopelessly lost watching the sequel, the aptly-titled The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. You won’t understand most of the characters’ relationships or motivations.
Even before The Wife and I saw the film at The Spectrum Theatre, my friend Steve Bissette had written this parallel to, of all things, the Andy Griffith Show:
“For me, SECOND BEST’s Dev Patel [as Sonny] was thanklessly trapped in the 21st century faux-Bollywood Don Knotts role. Like, if India was Mayberry, and Barney Fife was of course going to mistake the wrong person as “important” and treat the right person like dung, making us all squirm in embarrassment to the end. Only if, like, Barney ran a hotel with Maggie Smith, could dance really, really well, and had a really hot fianceé [Tina Desai as Sunaina].”
That would make the gruff character played by Maggie Smith the sheriff. The movie threw away her best line, possibly the best one in the film: “I went with low expectations and came back disappointed,” referring to the United States.
Steve’s framing was quite helpful, actually, in allowing the Sonny character from driving me crazy. Near the end of the film, not much of a spoiler, Sonny promises to be a better husband than he was a fiance.
This is NOT a great film, and I wouldn’t quite recommend it. Yet, through the sheer strength of the performances of the returning actors Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, and others, plus the newbies, such as Richard Gere, I found myself still carrying about the fate of their characters. They were old friends you catch up with at the reunion. And I like the second half of the film more than the first.
If you loved the first movie, tamp down your expectations of the second, and you might like it just fine.