5 March 2015 | jdesando
Light comedy at this dead time of year and amusing elderly pairings.
"Tho' much is taken, much abides; and though We are not now that strength which in old days Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield." Tennyson's Ulysses
Same old, same old: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel takes its old British actors like Judy Dench and Maggie Smith and gives them challenges related to their aging, be it cynicism about life (Smith) or late-in-life romance (Dench). The messages are relentless, not the least of which crystallized in the excerpt from Tennyson about being "strong in will" and drinking life to the "lees."
It's all about seizing the moment, especially with those elders for whom time is a limited resource. In almost all cases, love is the agenda, either accepting it or fighting it. Dench's Evelyn fights her attraction to adorable but frequently befuddled Douglas (Bill Nighy, who has faltering, hesitation speech patterns down to a science). Maggie Smith's Muriel is crusty with a warm interior and definitely not looking for love.
In between are others looking for love, including the most glamorous, Richard Gere's Guy, who may or may not be a covert inspector for financing the second hotel in the emerging Marigold chain. Gere improbably looks for love with a mother he has just met, but it's his romantic quest that carries that end of the film, improbable as it is.
Although the senior romping is unbelievable at times, Dev Patel's Sonny is plain irritating. His "Sonny" disposition practically sinks the first Marigold Hotel as he mixes his jealousy over a rival for his fiancé with the practicalities of business. After a while his outlandish speeches and out-sized body motions strain credulity and the light romance the film should be.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is the child of the first hotel pic, both of which have the temerity to treat old folks as real folks. The struggle for love and the awareness of time's passage are the motifs that drive a sentimental journey with truths catering to Tennyson's romantic vision of travel and life engagement.