Second Best Marigold Hotel Review

best-exotic-hotel-249911Lately I’ve been very careful about the 2 movies I’ve seen in the theater to make sure I went at a time when the theater would be nearly empty because of my cough.  This was true yesterday as I finally got to see The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  This is of course a sequel to the original Marigold Hotel in 2012 which introduced us to a whole bunch of great British actors who are finding a new lease on life at a hotel designed for seniors in India.

The-Second-Best-Exotic-Marigold-Hotel-Cast-WallpapersThis amazing cast includes Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup, Dev Patel and more.  This sequel adds Richard Gere to the mix and he is one of the most attractive men over 60 I’ve ever seen.  We also get a far too brief appearance from the great David Strathairn.

BEST-EXOTIC-MARIGOLD-HOTELBasically the story is Maggie Smith’s Muriel Donnelly is now working with Dev Patel’s Sonny to run the hotel and they begin in America trying to court investors into financing a second venture.  Maggie Smith is so great. Sometimes I wish we could clone her so that she could be in every movie.  She turns what could be a very trite character into a real person I felt tied too.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015) - Maggie SmithShe’s someone who has no children and yet she has found a place and people where she can literally grow old and leave an impact, be remembered.  As someone who also has no children and is not married I hope I can be so lucky and find a place like the Marigold Hotel when I get older.

The rest of the movie is fairly simple.  Sonny is getting married to the stunning Sunaina played by Tina Desai who is one of the most beautiful actresses I’ve ever seen in a movie. Gorgeous.

exotic hotel3He is stressed trying to purchase a new hotel and be prepared for inspectors who Richard Gere is.

We also get a lovely little back and forth romance between Bill Nighy’s Douglas and Judi Dench’s Evelyn.  It showed that making commitments to each other is not necessarily easier just because you are older.  All the actors elevate the material and make it far more engaging than it has any right to be.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold HotelI could have done with a little less of the silly plot device of a hitman mistakenly ordered between Ronald Pickup’s Norman and Diana Hardcastle’s Carol but the way it ended was sweet and lovely.

The-Second-Best-Exotic-Marigold-Hotel-5We also get to see Celia Imrie go between 2 suitors and get to know the chauffeur on the way. And Lillete Dubey is absolutely elegant and perfect as Dev Patel’s mother who has a relationship with Richard Gere (who can blame her).exotic hotel

I could totally see why you could tear this movie apart.  Is it predictable? Yes.  Is it full of tropes and contrivances? Yes.  Is it travel porn and a completely ridiculous notion of India and growing old? I haven’t experienced either but I suspect, Yes.

Was I completely charmed by it? Yes.

Sometimes all a movie needs to do is get the right group of actors together, play characters I like, that I want to see happy and tell me a conventional story.  Every last person in this movie I liked, I was rooting for.  It’s such a contrast to a movie like The Judge which is equally contrived but full of characters I greatly disliked. Everyone was such a jerk in that movie that I turned it off.


There’s a place for the dark and brooding characters and stories but not in a light fluffy happy movie about people growing old.  Not in a family drama like The Judge.  Another example would be The Family Stone which gave me one unlikable character after another.  It’s Christmas for goodness sakes, give me someone to root for!

So, I could see the Second Best Marigold Hotel not being your cup of tea.  But if you like pleasant, breezy stories about good people finding happiness than it may be for you.  It’s especially lovely to have a movie with so many older relationships and actors elevating material above the script.

As far as content it is pretty squeaky clean.  There are relationships outside of marriage but nothing is really shown but that’s about it on the objectionable content scale.

It’s the kind of movie I will buy on blu-ray and pop in along with the original which I already own on a bad day when I need a pick me up.  Nothing wrong with that!

Overall Grade- B  Content Grade- A+

Character Profile 2: Isobel Crawley


Tonight is the beginning of season 5 of Downton Abbey.  I have been a fan of the show since 2011.  Here is a post I wrote about  it in February 2012.

The Show:


I don’t watch that many dramas on TV because most have gotten too R rated in their content (too much nudity, profanity, violence etc).  I did watch a little of Gothem this year and enjoyed that but most of the time I end up watching either reality TV (Survivor, Big Brother, Amazing Race) or comedies (Goldbergs, The Middle, Simpsons).

So when I found Downton Abbey on PBS I was thrilled.  It is a show about the aristocratic family The Crawley’s in early 1900 Great Britain.  It is considered the post-Edwardian era by historians and it was a time of change away from the old caste systems to a more equal playing field.

The first episode of the show starts in 1912 and by the end of season 5 we are at 1925.  The show maintains a ton of characters both upstairs and down and the acting is across the board great.

Writer Julian Fellowes does a great job of integrating all the characters with the immaculate costumes and sets.  The tone is soapy but always with real heart.  Even a character like Mary Crawley who under a less capable pen (and actress) would be a one-note snob but here she is more nuanced and tough to pin down. One moment you hate her and then she does something really likable.

A lot of people have turned off the show because in season 3 they had 2 big castmembers who left the show  and were killed off.  Then in season 4 a rape occurs which is brutal and tough to watch but I thought well acted and probably pretty realistic to what would happen to a raped servant in that age.

It will be interesting to see what happens in Season 5.  Very excited!

Character Profile:

isobel working

It was hard to decide a character to profile because I love so many of them but I decided to pick a person who in a way bridges both the upstairs and downstairs world- Isobel Crawley.

A working class relation by marriage to the Crawley’s, Isobel is the widowed wife, daughter and sister of doctors and is a trained nurse, a skill that comes into play frequently on the show.  She also interacts often with Dr Clarkson who may be a potential love interest?

doctor-clarkson-isobel-crawley-downton-460x258 Isobel is played by legendary British actress (and dame I think?) Penelope Wilton.  She is lovely in her performance managing to pull of a strength and hidden vulnerability.  On one hand you feel she is more noble than some of the Crawleys but on the other it seems like she is way over her head.

What gets her into trouble on occasion is her desire to help people.  Being from another class than the Crawley’s she often fights for people in the servant class whether it insisting on a new treatment for a man with dropsy in season 1 or helping shunned Ethel who is reduced to prostitution after meeting hard times (in that plot line even the staff is violently opposed to the hire).

isobel and ethel

Her relationship with the entire Downton staff is lovely.  She is on a different level but kind of like Branson she both dines with the family and has worked with Mrs Hughes and others on a pretty equal playing field. I like that she both obeys conventions and defies them at the same time.

In fact, when they arrive at Downton she tells Matthew “What they expect is that we won’t know how to behave so if you don’t mind, I would rather not confirm their expectations”.   I think that sums up how she lives her life- self-aware, confident, willing to please others, but also wanting the best for herself and her son. I would say she wants to defy expectations by both the staff and family of the house.

isobel and mrs hughes
Mrs Hughes and Isobel


Isobel is also at constant war with Lady Violet played unforgettably played by Dame Maggie Smith.   The writing between these two dynamic women (both characters and actresses) is the best in the show.

In season 4 we got to see a new side of Isobel who has lost her Matthew, her only son.  There was a new vulnerability and a sense she does not handle grief with the perfection we might have expected.  She isolates herself and only comes out to see little George.  I am very curious to see where her story goes and what Fellowes does with her as both a lonely but independent woman.

Isobel and Lady Violet


I do have one plea to the show. It started out with a good mixture of light humorous banter mixed with drama and soapy conflict. With the deaths in season 3 and rape in 4 the show got considerably darker and I miss the wit and fun. I hope we can get back some of that lightness. Not that I want the show to be silly but a lighter tone would be nice. There are plenty of shows on TV with anti-heroes and conflicted, wounded creatures. I watch Downton for the great writing and bubbly look at a different era. The drama should absolutely be there but give us a break from time to time.

But even if it continues to be dark I know I can count on Isobel Crawley to be one of the most fascinating and hard to pin down characters on the show.  That’s what great writing, production values and acting can do for a character.  Can’t wait for tonight!!!

Who is your favorite Downton Abbey character? What do you think of Isobel? Do you agree with me on the tone of the show?