In Depth

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: reviews praise a hit formula

A return trip to the retirement home in India looks set to attract the silver set all over again

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which opens today, looks set to cash in on the success of its forerunner with a good-natured spirit and impeccable performances.

The follow-up to the unexpected hit The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, about a retirement home in India, sees Dame Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and Dev Patel reprise their roles, with Richard Gere also joining the cast. 

The original took the box office by surprise, earning more than £82m at the box office worldwide from a modest budget of £6m. So will the new film repeat that success? 

Peter Debruge in Variety says the spirited sequel, which opens in UK cinemas on 26 February, is "set to earn heaps of fresh gold from the silver set".

For a film conceived without any chance of a sequel in mind, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel actually lends itself surprisingly well to being extended, says Debruge. This is because the cast make their characters so lively, "we're happy for the chance to spend more time with them" and "the creators tried to do right by the original, brainstorming a plot deserving of a sequel".

Yes, it's a surprisingly moving sequel, agrees Robbie Collin in the Daily Telegraph. It starts out just as predictably as the first, admits Collin, "but around halfway through, the culture-clash clichés suddenly run out, and the whole thing swerves off in an unexpected and rewarding direction".

Another highlight, says Collin, is seeing Maggie Smith stretch her range. "It feels like you're watching a classic Ferrari reach the end of an average speed check zone and whistle off into the distance."

Leslie Felperin in the Hollywood Reporter is less convinced, calling the film "honestly titled if nothing else" and describing it as "a sluggish also-ran compared to its predecessor." Still, Felperin admits, the all-star cast of treasured British thespians with a couple of American names to boost its international marketability, should do similar, or even better business worldwide.

And it seems to have been made with half an eye on the South Asian arthouse market, says Felperin, which explains why it improves on the first film by giving the Indian characters stronger storylines.

Yes, it's "a slightly reshuffled pack of old-gold stage and screen veterans", says Andrew Pulver in The Guardian. It's "undemanding, misty-eyed stuff" carried off by "seasoned, thoroughbred performers".

But it's hard to be harsh on a film so essentially good-natured, says Pulver, "though collective patience may snap if a Third Best Exotic Marigold Hotel hobbles into view".

Five more golden oldies

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel joins a long and venerable tradition of films about later life. Here are some of the best: 

Harold and Maude

Hal Ashby's 1971 dark romantic comedy is the story of an affluent young man in his 20s named Harold who is intrigued by death to the point of staging fake suicides and visiting strangers' funerals. His outlook changes when he meets, and eventually develops a romance with, a 79-year-old woman named Maude (Ruth Gordon) who teaches him about living life to its fullest. Empire rated Harold and Maude no. 65 in its list of 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.

On Golden Pond

The 1981 drama earned both its stars, Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn, Academy Awards for their roles as Norman, a curmudgeonly retired professor and his wife Ethel. When the couple's annual New England retreat is interrupted by the arrival of their daughter (Jane Fonda), her fiancé and his son, old family tensions re-emerge, but the presence of the young boy reawakens Norman's gentler side and prompts a reconciliation. The simple tale of an elderly couple coming to terms with old age is greatly boosted by the film's high-calibre stars.

Cocoon

Ron Howard's 1985 science fiction/fantasy film tells the story of a group of elderly people rejuvenated by an alien 'fountain of youth'. Three residents of Sunny Shores retirement home trespass on a neighbouring property to swim in a pool, which turns out to be charged by an alien 'life force'. As the retirees start to feel younger and stronger, other residents from the home discover their secret. But in the rush to make themselves young, they risk draining the pool's life force. The film became a box office hit and won two Academy Awards.

About Schmidt

Alexander Payne's 2002 comedy-drama is a funny, touching character study starring Jack Nicholson in the title role. After he retires from his dull job, and the wife he no longer cares for dies, Schmidt embarks on a road trip to attend his daughter's wedding - to a man he doesn't like. The trip, filled with mishaps and misunderstandings, forces him to reflect on what is important in later life.    

Amour

Michael Haneke's French-language drama starring Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva and Isabelle Huppert, focuses on an elderly couple, Anne and Georges, whose daughter lives abroad. When Anne suffers a paralysing stroke, Georges faces a heart-breaking choice about her future. The film was famously dismissed by author Bret Easton Ellis as "On Golden Pond directed by Hitler", but went on to win the 2013 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. 

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