Reel Relationships: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – Be Brave

Second Best Exotic Marigold HotelMovie: “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Sequel
Runtime: 122 minutes
Written by: Ol Parker (screenplay)
Based on: The book by Deborah Moggach (Buy on Amazon)
Directed by: John Madden
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Cast: Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Dev Patel, Richard Gere
Official Site: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Read: Jane’s Movie Review
See: Judi Dench and real-life love David Mills at the NYC Red Carpet Premiere

SYNOPSIS: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has only one remaining vacancy, posing a rooming predicament for two fresh arrivals, so Sonny and Muriel travel to the U.S. in search of investors for a second hotel.

Spoiler Alert: As usual, we tell you everything about the relationships in this relationship movie.


Although the plot is supposed to answer the question “will Sonny Kappor (Dev Patel) be able to get the money to expand into a second retirement hotel for the elderly and beautiful?” it’s really all about “will everyone in the hotel find love?”

Frank and I can really relate to the characters and their love lives, because they’re our over-60 peers. Some of us may recall the 1960’s social experiment of communes of like-minded idealists trying to create an alternate lifestyle. Well, none of these English seniors had even a vaguely hippie past, but they’ve stumbled into the opportunity to create their own 21st Century offbeat tribe in colorful India, and second chances for love are everywhere. In the bosom of their retirement hotel and away from their inhibiting families and the conventions of English society, these seniors are free to seek relationship fulfillment in ways they never did before. Yay!

There are no happily married couples here. All have been widowed, divorced or are still single. The only married couple, the unassuming Douglas (Bill Nighy) and the sharp-tongued Jean (Penelope Wilton), were disastrously matched and she moved back to England in the first film. There’s some closure here when Jean returns to demand a divorce so she too can have a new beginning.

Meanwhile, Douglas is deeply in love with sweet, timid Evelyn (Judi Dench), whom he and we can palpably feel is also in love with him, but is still too uncertain of herself to reach out. Madge (Celia Imrie), a confident flirt, has always looked for security, not romance, and has managed to get two rich Indian suitors to propose and now has to choose between them. Carol (Diana Hardcastle) and Norman (Ronald Pickup) are the sexually open couple who finally, in their late 70s, may want a committed, monogamous relationship.

Lastly, into this unusually fertile romantic climate, comes the 64-year-old Guy Chambers, (Richard Gere), a divorcee and possible undercover hotel inspector, who is trying to find himself by writing his first novel — about the despair of aging. He is instantly drawn to Sonny’s strong, beautiful but closed-down widowed mother (Lillete Dubey.) Only the unswerving bachelorette, Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith), is out of the game.

Judi Dench and real-life love David Mills at the NYC premiere of "The Second Best Marigold Hotel" | Paula Schwartz Photo (read full story here)
Judi Dench & Real-Life Love David Mills at NYC premiere of The Second Best Marigold Hotel | Paula Schwartz (full story)

How real is all this? Aside from not tackling the challenging-for-all online dating, we think the writer has created a prism of issues and options that today’s liberated single boomer and seniors have. The older crowd faces a lot of universal dating problems, but they also have unique problems: the health issues of aging and looming mortality. On the other hand, they have experience and the motivation to enjoy life while they can.

The writer highlights this in the dance between Douglas and Evelyn. Douglas’ memory is going. Evelyn projects her own physical state in her quip when Muriel drops something: “Don’t bend down. You won’t be able to get up.” Douglas and Evelyn accept each other’s physical issues with humor and compassion. They’re well matched in that they are both gentle, sensitive souls hungering for connection. Despite Evelyn softly pushing him away, Douglas keeps reaching out to her. Because of their temperaments, fear of rejection, and having that English peculiarity about politeness, they never directly confront any of their emotions or issues in words–everything is subtext. For example, when Douglas invites her to meet his daughter in another city, he means “I love you” and perhaps “I want to share a room with you.” When she replies she can’t because she’s working, she means “I want to go, but I’m afraid.” His “of course” means “I’m being too bold. I don’t want to scare you away.”

You don’t have to be older, English or even single to be afraid to be vulnerable to misunderstanding or rejection and anxious about revealing your true thoughts and feelings. Fear of being hurt is the common denominator between couples, from their teens to their nineties. Hence the mantra we repeat over and over again to our clients: “Say what you think, feel, want out loud, in words.”

All the residents of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, especially the older ones, grapple with fear. Even the self-possessed Madge is hesitant to abandon a calculated marriage to a rich man to be with someone she truly cares about. Carol has an affair to protect her heart because she erroneously believes Norman is having one. The widowed Mrs. Kapoor struggles with letting her formidable guard down and allowing herself to be a woman again. Every one of these concerns and behaviors are common in every age group and every Age.

What pushes these boomers and seniors to action is Time. When Evelyn confides to a male co-worker that she loves Douglas and, if she could actually speak out, she’d tell him, “I need more time,” and he asks, “How much time do you have?” That’s the key question that finally moves Evelyn to let go. And ultimately, it’s the question that motivates all the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel residents to grow forward, to choose life and love over financial security, self-doubt, and fear.


How much time do any of us have to deny ourselves a chance at love and at a richer, more fulfilling life? What does it take to overcome our insecurities and speak up and reach out? To many boomers and seniors, the answer is “Carpe Diem! “ Seize the day!” They’re living longer, and they’re healthier and freer than previous generations.

To that point, boomers and senior dating sites are the fastest growing segments of the online-dating market. The AARP magazine has the largest U.S. circulation of any magazine and it’s full of stories of career and relationship reinvention, and ads, including “how–to” 50+ sex videos. Clearly, there’s a major societal change that is transforming what older men and women expect in terms of love, sex and relationship.

So, whatever your age, we suggest you follow the example of the residents of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: Be brave! Go for it!


3 responses to “Reel Relationships: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – Be Brave”

  1. Janice Smith Avatar

    Thanks for the detailed view – excited to see Judi Densch in another role besides ‘M”! Should be great as I always enjoy her wit and acting abilities.

    1. Judith Claire Avatar

      Nobody plays aching vulnerability the way Judi Densch does. Did you see the BBC miniseries “Return to Cranston?” That was first time she broke my heart. She has the same quality in this film. On the other hand, she can be tough, funny, regal–a true artist.

  2. Judith Claire Avatar

    The first one was a total delight – fresh and unexpected. The 2nd was more predictable, but the satisfaction for me was like visiting old friends and seeing what happened to them. It would make a great TV series. What do you think?

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