The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel


DIR:  John Madden  • WRI: Ol Parker • PRO: Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin • DOP: Ben Smithard • MUS: Thomas Newman • DES: Martin Childs • CAST: Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Richard Gere, Judi Dench

Four years on from the first instalment, the golden-years residents of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and the Beautiful have acclimatised to life in Jaipur, India. We check in on new couple Evelyn (Judi Dench) and Douglas (Bill Nighy), as they manoeuvre the difficult world of dating after decades of marriage to other people. Muriel (Maggie Smith) is keeping pace as the acerbic right-hand woman keeping the hotel management in check. Norman (Ronald Pickup) and Carol (Diana Hardcastle) are finding out that leaving behind the Lothario lifestyle isn’t as easy as you might think, and Madge (Celia Imrie) is trying to choose between two suitors in her own particular Blanche DuBois way. Meanwhile, the exuberant owner of the hotel, Sonny (Dev Patel), dreams of expansion as he simultaneously plans his wedding to the woman of his dreams Sunaina (Tina Desai), but a proposed partnership with a big hotel chain brings undercover hotel inspectors who might derail everything. New arrivals Guy (Richard Gere) and Lavinia (Tamsin Greig) shake things up for the residents, as complications occur in everyone’s dream of the simple life in India.


There is plenty to like about The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – the cast might as well be old friends, so comfortable are they (and us) with their position onscreen; the colours and sounds of Jaipur are simply gorgeous; the script manages a few laughs here and there; and there’s even a new love story to keep us involved. But somehow it falls a little flat – perhaps behind all the colour there’s just too much awareness of how much this resembles an escapist, post-colonial dream of a passive India. There is even a Bollywood dance number – which Patel and Desai perform with gusto, and what looks like genuine enjoyment, but it still has an undercurrent of performative traditionalism, especially since the guests of honour at a family wedding are unaccountably a group of English and American old folks. Fans of the original might enjoy reacquainting themselves with the characters, checking in on how they have conquered Jaipur and all of its vagaries, but there isn’t a lot here to pull in converts. The ending of the first film left suggestions of happiness to come, whether through Sonny’s marriage, Evelyn and Douglas’s fledgling romance, or Muriel’s shedding of her racist beginnings and embracing of Indian culture. This sequel, then, has an air of wish-fulfilment – giving the audience an answer to all of those lovely hints of happy endings…but giving an audience what they want is rarely a recipe for a great movie, and the film stumbles along wearily trying to tell sub-plot after sub-plot while never really finding an actual narrative arc.


While generally harmless, and at times enjoyable enough in terms of the acting, this sequel was a bit unnecessary and just raises more questions about the achievable life of enlightenment it purports to depict. While it’s never exactly a chore to spend a couple of hours in the company of some of the finest actors to ever grace the silver screen, the film lacks the verve of the original in a way that’s quite hard to get on board with. Perhaps it’s time to leave these characters to their golden years without disturbance.


Sarah Griffin

PG (See IFCO for details)
122 minutes

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is released 27th February 2015


The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel  – Official Website


Cinema Review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel



DIR: John Madden • WRI: Ol Parker • PRO: Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin • DOP: Ben Davis • ED: Chris Gill • DES: Alan MacDonald • Cast: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson

Over the past 20 years British filmmakers have shown a remarkable knack for producing solid, if not exceptionable, entertainment for older filmgoers. Films such as Calendar Girls and Mrs Henderson Presents have brought in the viewers, often in their senior years, while also being satisfying enough to keep the critics from giving them the mauling their American equivalents receive (c.f. It’s Complicated).

The latest of these goldies for oldies is The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a coming of old-age comedy drama about finding yourself, even if it’s only in the autumn years.

The film follows seven seniors (played by actors ranging from their late 50s to their mid 70s) who find themselves travelling together to a paradisiacal retirement home in Jaipur, India. Douglas and Jean (Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton) are escaping a future in an old folks’ home. Widow Evelyn (Judi Dench) needs to get away from the memory of her husband. Wheelchair-bound Muriel (Maggie Smith) needs a new hip, and will get it sooner in India. Graham (Tom Wilkinson) quits his role as a top judge to seek out an old friend in the city where he grew up. Norman (Ronald Pickup) is just there to get his geriatric jiggy on, while Madge (Celia Imrie) is after her umpteenth husband.

Of course the hotel is not what its Photoshop-blitzed website advertised, and the seniors find themselves at the mercy of Dev Patel’s hotel manager – a kind-hearted but cheesy salesman type, determined he can “outsource” Britain’s elderly. As repairs to the crumbling hotel go on around them, the British guests find themselves, for the most part, being slowly seduced by India’s blatant and hidden beauties.

There’s no denying the first 30 minutes of Best Exotic Marigold Hotel feel familiar. They follow the same trajectory as every holiday from hell comedy you’ve ever seen. But after that something shifts, and this late-life crisis movie becomes something altogether different, more honest and much, much sweeter than expected.

While this is partially down to the restrained direction of John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) and an unexpectedly original script, the real saviour of this film is the performances. While Dench is a little on auto-pilot, she manages to pull off some magic here, especially when opposite Bill Nighy. Maggie Smith goes completely against type to play a working-class woman who spouts the sort of racist comments that would cost a highly rated American comedian his career. Penelope Wilton, best known to half the audience as Shaun’s mum in Shaun of the Dead (where she was also married to Nighy, curiously) and to the other half as Cousin Isobel in Downton Abbey, also rejects the usual sweetness she is typecast with and here plays the uptight bitch.

However, it is Tom Wilkinson, playing an Englishman again for the first time in what feels like forever, who steals the film, with his best performance since Michael Clayton in 2007. He delivers many of the film’s best lines with an honest intensity beyond what the film calls for, and his story would only fail to touch the stoniest-hearted of viewers.

With little sense of mysticism or magic and none of the ‘white people solve foreigners’ problems’ one might expect of a similar Hollywood production, this is honest, well-meaning fun, and won’t just appeal to filmgoers over 60. Patel’s performance may hover on the border between stereotype and racist, but the overall image of India presented is a positive one. Though, much like some of the film’s characters, it won’t be to everyone’s taste.

A final word of warning; the film suffers from a violent case of ‘best lines in the trailer’-osis. If you’ve already decided to give the film a look, I recommend avoiding the trailer at all costs.

David Neary

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is released on 24th February 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel  – Official Website


Gnomeo & Juliet

Gnomeo & Juliet

DIR/WRI: Kelly Asbury • Wri: Kelly Asbury, Mark Burton, Kevin Cecil, Emily Cook, Kathy Greenberg, Andy Riley • PRO: Baker Bloodworth, David Furnish • ED: Catherine Apple • DES: Kalina Ivanov • CAST: James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Maggie Smith

It’s that time again, the time when The Bard’s words are wheeled out and given an updated ‘twist’ for modern audiences. In Gnomeo & Juliet the twist is that the parts in the greatest love story ever told are played by animated garden gnomes, and I’m not kidding. With James McEvoy voicing the aptly named Gnomeo and Emily Blunt taking on the role of Juliet, it can’t all be bad, can it!?

Well no, whilst rival clans of garden gnomes might ordinarily be the stuff of cheesy horror, our characters are effortlessly charming. Whilst the entire thing is vaguely ridiculous, it’s difficult not to get sucked into the childishness of it all and enjoy it for what it is, fun. McEvoy and Blunt bring a charming element to this bizarre love story and it’s hard not to root for these little guys despite the question marks looming in the dark recesses of your brain. There are some nods to the play specifically for the adults, as well as some gentle pastiche of more modern movies to ensure a few chuckles from those of us in double digits.

The animation itself is crisp and pristine and includes more bright colours than your retinas knew existed but, as always, the unnecessary addition of 3D does very little for the overall experience of the story, other than making the outing very slightly more expensive and the task of convincing a small child to keep 3D glasses on for the entirety is never a simple one. This animation would be more enjoyable in 2D as that now unavoidable extra dimension dulls what is intended to be excellent animation.

There is an over-heavy use of well-known voices which takes away a bit of the magic of the film. Rather than falling in love with an ensemble porcelain cast, the audience find themselves doing the obligatory, ‘Who IS that? Sounds familiar….Oh it’s Peggy Mitchell right?, It’s a sad fact that some movies simply can’t stand on their own merit and require an impressive ensemble cast in order to sell tickets at the box office (Valentine’s Day anyone?!). It is slightly disillusioning when this carries over into animation in order to lure parents in with their kids.

Overall, Gnomeo & Juliet is a bizarre but somewhat enjoyable exploration of a timeless classic. Right, now that that’s over with we must all bow our heads and pray that the next ten years doesn’t see the appearance of lawnmower races and rival garden gnomes in the Shakespeare Leaving Cert question.

Ciara O’Brien

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
Gnomeo & Juliet
is released on 11th February 2011

Gnomeo & Juliet – Official Website



Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang

Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang

DIR: Susanna White • WRI: Emma Thompson • PRO: Tim Bevan, Lindsay Doran, Eric Fellner • DOP: Mike Eley • ED: Sim Evan-Jones • DES: Simon Elliott • CAST: Emma Thompson, Ralph Fiennes, Maggie Smith, Rhys Ifans, Maggie Gyllenhaal

Emma Thompson once again pens and stars in a candy-coloured film adaptation of the children’s books by Christianna Brand, following a very strict and very ugly nanny who brings order and manners to a household full of naughty children. This outing sees the titular character nursing a farmhouse family whose father is off at war. The mother, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, is obliged the sell the land to her nasty brother (Rhys Ifans), a slimy character who will not rest till he gets his way. Meanwhile the children’s vile London cousins come to stay – two little brats who balk at the state of the earthy farm abode.

Enter Nanny McPhee – an otherworldly being who appears when a family needs her most – squashed-nosed and snaggle-toothed, she calmly teaches the children five important lessons, though when things get out of hand she must employ the same supernatural technique of setting down her walking stick as she did in her previous adventure, and to spectacular effect. Nanny McPhee attempts to set the household to rights using these very methods, while the family struggle on with their visitors and hope against hope that their father will return.

Thanks to Emma Thompson’s involvement, the film boasts an impressive array of British thespians, including Maggie Smith, Ewan McGregor and Ralph Fiennes as a senior WW2 army officer. Though characterisation is hardly profound in a story such as this, each actor has their moment to shine – and Gyllenhaal, as the young mother, sports a flawless British accent and conveys her trademark maternal emotion when needs be. Production values are stellar, with all the period details on display. The film whisks along at a nice pace and never gets bogged down in one place – Thompson’s adaptation is wrought with real warmth and wit, and once again she works wonders on-screen under layers of prosthetics, with every wry glance and raise of the eyebrow worthy of a laugh.

Setting the story of against the backdrop of World War II is very smart move – the ‘big bang’ in the title referring to the imminent threat of bombings during this time period. This gives the film a foundation of realism that the previous movie lacked…however, there’s little room left for war-time misery in the thematic threads of this story – you’re more like to find a group of piglets doing synchronised swimming than any sign of a swastika.

Ultimately, this is a family film, written for children – talking to them, not at them and carrying a very sensitive message at its heart. There are no double-entendres for the adults the snigger at; this is harmless entertainment at its best. It may not be a new classic but it’s nice to see something like this making its way to our screens during the Easter break.

Eoghan McQuinn
(See biog here)

Rated G (See IFCO website for details)

Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang is released on 26th March 2010

Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang – Official Website