Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Like its predecessor, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a charming example of what great actors can do with mediocre material. The film unfolds, like a landlocked episode of The Love Boat, by cutting between parallel storylines. Most of these involve sex—never shown, but clearly implied—or romance between two elegantly dressed, immaculately coiffed seniors. The audience also follows wide-eyed young Sonny (Dev Patel) and wise-owl Muriel (Maggie Smith), the co-owners of the Indian hotel turned active adult-retirement community of the title, as they work to line up a loan to expand into a second hotel. Meanwhile, Sonny prepares to marry his improbably hot fiancĂ©e, Suneina (Tena Desae), nearly blowing the whole thing by paying too little attention to her and too much to his hotel.

This could easily have felt like one of those painfully awkward movies in which dark-skinned individuals are treated as a colorful backdrop to the dawning epiphanies of a handful of lighter-skinned Westerners—and, judging by the bored expressions on the faces of a couple of beautiful little girls in the background of some of the shots, that may be how it felt to some of the extras involved. But if you accept the basic premise of the series, that the hotel gives British elders who felt invisible in their own country an opportunity to launch a vibrant new stage of life in a place that's more welcoming to older people, and warmer in almost every way, than home, there's pleasure in watching these characters blossom, as the cast conveys their inner lives with delicate detail and panache.

Read the rest in Slant Magazine

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