“Left or right, my lady?” Ignore the words which make you think of the British aristocracy and colonialism and all that jazz. It is a profound moment in a film all about choices, the ones we think we are making, but which are so often not choices at all.
In a sequel, certain expectations have to be met about certain characters, but what I like about Madge Hardcastle (Celia Imrie) is that there is very little expected in terms of whom she should end up with. She is seen as on the hunt for a wealthy man in the first film, but seems to be living her life on her terms. She doesn’t have the confusing relationship Evelyn Greenslade does with Douglas Ainslie, nor does she worry constantly about death or being alone or other things. She just has to choose between a couple of men, and the moment where she decides she doesn’t really want either is epic. (With the help and advice of her trusty taxi driver of course.)
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel promised to be fun, but in the way of many sequels, it cannot be quite as fun. Though filled with the antics of Sonny once again, and centered around his wedding to Sunaina, the focus is on the residents of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. One storyline, that of Norman Cousins, is essentially devoted to being funny, as he tries to protect Carol from an auto driver that might have misunderstood him and now be attempting to finish her off. Spotting an auto with a scorpion on the back might seem easy in Jaipur, but catching up to it is the hard part.
Charming as the first film, it is filled with moments where the characters do sweet or silly things which are extraordinary for people their age (as they keep mentioning themselves) but still believable. Becoming a tour guide is one way to earn a little cash as long as the assistant feeding lines to you isn’t a child who can be distracted by games. Douglas had to learn that the hard way. Luckily, by the end of the film, he has Evelyn to support him with her successful career as a buyer for a fabric business.
Sonny holds the residents in his heart, and it is especially clear in his relationship with Muriel Donnelly. Riding dramatically through empty streets is usually saved for romantic relationships, but we see him anxiously looking for his mentor right after he got married. With fear of the worst possible thing–her death on his mind, and ours, it is a relief to hear her characteristically crabby but affectionate words as she tells him to go back to the party, these words ease our minds.
But we know all is not well. It is reinforced in her brief conversation with the honcho who invested in the Marigold chain and is obvious from the classic juxtaposition of energetic dancing at the reception and her writing a letter with utmost concentration. “Let go. that’s when the fun starts. Because there’s no present like the time,” she quotes Sonny back.
Why do people write so seriously in letters, why can’t they be full of smiley faces and jokes? That probably contributes a lot more to the death of letters than the internet. And I’m back from my little digression.
“I spent forty years of my life scrubbing floors and the last few months of my life as co-manager of a hotel half way around the world. You have no idea now, what you will become.” It all comes down to choices, even if you don’t think you have one. She chose to go the Most Exotic Marigold Hotel as a cheap place to recuperate. Who knew the curmudgeon would end up helping to run it?