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The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

July 29, 2017

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015)
Director: John Madden
Actors: Dev Patel, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy

Locataires-Indian-Palace-300x150.jpg (300×150)

Synopsis: Sunny (Dev Patel) and Sunaina (Tina Desai), proprietors of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in Jaipur, find their wedding preparations under strain from plans to expand the hotel’s franchise.

Review: When a film makes an 800% profit on its initial investment, objection to its merits as a drama are by the by, but still, The Second Best Exotic Hotel‘s troubling ethno-politics and its status as one of the most patronising movies ever made cannot be overlooked.

At its least objectionable, The Second Best Exotic Hotel can be explained as a form of permissible, feelgood soap opera – something akin to the fodder served up to BBC TV audiences on a Sunday evening. Its array of utterly predictable characters and arcs would suit that leisurely format and viewing demographic, but on the more probing, spectatorial microscope of the big screen, the film’s blithe attitude to its Indian characters and canvas, plus the largely bogus journeys it forces on its key personnel, give new meaning to the word ‘shallow’.

The opening to the film plays what it perceives to be its trump card when Maggie Smith’s plucky racist and xenophobe offers a monologue about the etiquette of tea-drinking to corporate suits in San Diego when the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’s franchise pitch is seemingly going awry (oh – wait a minute – this film seems to have conveniently forgotten her character’s vile arc in the previous film). Sadly, making Smith’s character some sort of sanctimonious, moral chorus around which this film’s action can revolve is a rank bad decision, and matching that faux pas is the truly horrendous idea of having Celia Imrie’s patronisingly flirty MILF sleep around with a series of august Indian suitors before finding her heart belongs to her humble, ‘earthy’ local taxi-driver (despite the fact he’s been pimping out this rather detestable English love-glutton for the duration of the film – but then again, he’s not meant to exist as an actual person, he’s just a cipher of Indian servility around which the cheapest of character epiphanies can take place).

To be fair to The Second Best Exotic Hotel, it knows no shame; it’s even got more endings than The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King! Tom Wilkinson – the best actor with the best story from the previous film can’t save events this time around as he was killed off at the end of that film. Thus we’re left with a whole host of characters who are either unlikeable or uninteresting – quite the problem for even the more populist, mainstream aspirations of this film. (July 2017)

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