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SYNOPSIS: As his imminent marriage to Sunaine (Tena Desae) draws near, Sonny (Dev Patel) is struggling to find time to do justice to his new project - acquiring a second property to expand his first venture, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. There is only one vacancy, causing a predicament for newly arrived guests Guy (Richard Gere) and Lavinia (Tamsin Greig). Meanwhile, regular guests Evelyn and Douglas (Judi Dench, Bill Nighy) have joined the Jaipur workforce, and are wondering where their relationship is going, Norman and Carol (Ronald Pickup, Diana Hardcastle) are working through their relationship and whether or not it should be exclusive, Madge (Celia Imrie) juggles two suitors, while Muriel (Maggie Smith) is the keeper of everyone's secrets.

Review by Louise Keller:
While it's agreeable to spend another interlude with the characters we met four years ago in the first film, this second chapter is too slight, too laboured and too long to warrant as much attention. While Ol Parker's screenplay soared the first time around, it struggles to keep our interest with contrived story strands that beggar belief. Having said that, John Madden's film shines brightest by its Indian content - through its authentic, colourful backdrop and serial spouting of Kipling quotes by Dev Patel's overly earnest hotel manager Sonny Kapoor. The construct is sound, using Sonny's upcoming nuptials to form its pillars, however, the mood is somewhat tarred by a miscalculation that leaves us with a coating of melancholy, instead of the feel-good vibe for which we crave.

Before returning to India, the story begins incongruously with Sonny speeding on Route 66 in a convertible, Maggie Smith's Muriel Donnelly complaining vehemently. Their mission is to find financing for a second hotel; the first in which old age has been outsourced, is so successful, its regular guests only vacate when the heavens beckon. The references to death are humorous and the daily roll call alerts one and all, should the time of any of the residents have arrived. Smith is a formidable presence throughout and I liked the tension between her Muriel and Judi Dench's Evelyn Greenslade. My favourite Maggie Smith quote: 'I don't do advice; I give my opinion.'

Meanwhile, back in Japur, we are reminded of the hotel's regulars and how their lives have progressed. The story strand involving Judi Dench and Bill Nighy is the one in which we are most interested, their relationship having come to a seeming standstill, despite their obvious interest in each other. Most irritating is the plot line involving Celia Imre's Madge, who is perpetually at a lust, closely followed by the relationship between Ronald Pickup's Norman and his philandering wife Carol (Diana Hardcastle) about whom we care little. While there is some humour in the way Sonny fauns profusely on Richard Gere's Guy, assuming him to be the inspector sent to report on the running of the hotel ('the nose is the brain's instinct;), the romance between Guy and Sonny's mother (Lillete Dubey) is contrivance at its most unconvincing.

Lust, jealousy and love are the main themes, echoed in Sonny's relationship with his beautiful fiance Sunaina (Tina Desai), which is the focus for much of the film. The most visually striking scenes are those of the dancing at the couple's engagement and wedding parties, streamers of bright orange marigolds being the central decoration amid rose-petals. Watch out for Desai's stunning glittering orange and cobalt blue bare-midriff outfit with sequins.

At just over two hours, the film outstays its welcome, but the bustle of India never fails to engage and is the undisputed star.

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(US/UK, 2015)

CAST: Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Richard Gere, Judi Dench, Dev Patel, Tamsin Greig, Panelope Wilton, David Straithairn, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Tina Desai

PRODUCER: Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin

DIRECTOR: John Madden

SCRIPT: Ol Parker


EDITOR: Not credited

MUSIC: Thomas Newman

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Set decoration: Ed Turner

RUNNING TIME: 122 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 26, 2014

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