There’s no shortage of extremely pleasing scenery in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which is to be expected considering the majority of the film (aside from an opening scene involving two characters in America) takes place in a location in India meant to be a serene place for those in their elderly years to spend their remaining days. Those older residents are played by a number of well known actors, such as Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and Maggie Smith, who help make this two hours of one’s life that you won’t fall in love with or even be that entertained by, but I also doubt anyone could really find this movie to be that painful of an experience.
The story of this film takes a cue from countless past entities such as the fantastic Simpsons episode 22 Short Films About Springfield and focuses on several different residents and their stories. There’s Sonny (Dav Petal), the man who wants to expand his Marigold Hotel to a second location, Muriel (Maggie Smith), a grouchy resident who always pops up as a sort of voice of reason, the relationship between Evelyn (Judi Dench) and Douglas (Bill Nighy) and then there’s the weird plotline involving Norman (Ronald Pickup) believing he’s inadvertently ordered a hit on his wife.
Most of these plotlines, even the one involving a potential hitman, have very little overt conflict, and mostly reminded me more of a middling sitcom in terms of plot structure and execution. Actors like Nighy and Dench are able to commend a presence in any kind of project (even Nighy made his scenes in Wrath Of the Titans watchable), so the proceedings never get mind-numbingly boring, but these stories do mostly lack a much needed sense of engagement.
It doesn’t help that very few of these storylines intersect, which wouldn’t be a problem inherently if these individual plots actually managed to be consistently compelling tales in their own right. To be fair though, as I said before, the various seasoned actors involved here have a pleasant dynamic that results in some humorous moments. Actually, that’s one aspect the movie is quite adept at; there’s numerous humorous moments that did get a hearty chuckle out of me.
By the time the finale arrives (which contains a peculiar reappearance from a well known actor from the films very first scene), a big dance number and a Maggie Smith voiceover monologue conclude the proceedings with equal parts celebration and contemplation. Neither moment really works like gangbusters, but like the most of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, it’s hard to get too critical on it. After all, the actors seem to be having a decent time, the film is never particularly poorly made, and as I mentioned before, the scenery is quite nice. I obviously wish a movie with this kind of cast could do something more than just “ok” in terms of quality, but I’ll take what I can get.