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A review of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel… and my life in general

I’m reluctant when Emma suggests that we go and see The Second Best Marigold Hotel. It seems like a fairly unorthodox choice given our traditional tastes (anything ranging from girls series 1 to… girls series 5).

The cinema is an absurdly overpriced dank, dark room with strange smells emanating from the seats and people noisily chewing, laughing at unfunny jokes and kicking the back of your chair. – Not to be frequented unless absolutely essential: i.e. if Eddie Redmayne has won 7 trillion awards for faking a limp or Ann Hathaway is dying of a bad haircut or Hilary Duff is making her much anticipated comeback in a second Lizzie McGuire movie (hey a girl can dream).

But then she explains that it’s cheap Tuesday … and who am I to refuse? I’m on a budget and it’s either that or a night in with a tub of Nutella crying as I watch Girls for the fifteenth time – viewing with dismay the scarily accurate parallels with my own sad little life. I hastily grab my coat.

We get to the Picturehouse in Clapham – because we’re far too cosmopolitan to be caught dead in the likes of the Multiplex. We like the Picturehouse. We have been lured by the faux shabbiness and the notion that it is an independent. (I break the fact to Emma quite harshly – there is even one in Exeter) Nevertheless they’ve pitched themselves perfectly – always slightly off the beaten track, with perfectly instagram-able vintage posters and a kooky little bar adorned with fairy lights where you can get a glass of merlot which isn’t more expensive than your mortgage.

After attempting and failing to remember the name of the film I’m here to see (The Marigold Exotic Hotel Two was about as close as I could get.) The nice Scandinavian lady at the counter tells me it’s £15 for a membership or £7 a ticket… but you get two tickets free AND a free whiskey from the bar. Now I don’t drink whiskey but this feels like a no brainer. I’m in. They’ve got me exactly where they want me. I’m so deliriously excited that I instantly save the date in my head for The Sound of Music sing-along as soon as I see it advertised on the exposed brick wall.

For all of its virtue, the Picturehouse makes one crucial mistake. They sell the most pretentious looking popcorn in the world – it’s all yogurt coated with little bits of freeze dried raspberries squeezed into tiny – assumingly joke sized – plastic pouches. I’m sure this goes down very well with the yuppies who regularly frequent this haunt. But not me sonny Jim. I want a large bucket of sweet and salted and a tango ice blast please. I knew we should have gone to the multi-plex, Emma. Feeling far too frugal to part with our pennies, we eschew the pretentious looking popcorn in favour of food far less classy. We make an urgent dash to the corner shop across the road which stocks all manner of snacks actually worthy of the cinema. I, naturally, select six coconut macaroons and a Yazoo milkshake. Fantastic choice if I say so myself.

Wholly anticipating what we know will be a feel good romp, we eagerly ascend to screen 2 row G – best seats in the house. The chap taking tickets is shocked we aren’t watching 50 Shades of Grey. As we engage in a little repartee, we are incredibly smug that we have managed to resist our lesser urges in favour of something far more culturally enlightening. (But I do make a mental note to download it on the internet in the near future… you know, for research purposes…) He then greets the pair of twenty something girls behind us by name. He asks where their friend is. My friend Lauren turns to me – “OMG – now that we’re members that will be US!” she exclaims, overjoyed. – “We are going to be REGULARS” I enthuse back. This is the start of something beautiful.

As expected – the second edition is much like the first. Actually I’m pretty sure it’s exactly the same film – just sort of jumbled around a bit.

It begins, as all good strong British films do, with Maggie Smith making a brazen comment about a cup of tea. She is displeased about the temperature (luke-warm – oh the shame) and composition (teabag on the side of the cup – WHY?!) – a burden we must all bear when travelling abroad.

There is no real plot – aside from the fact that a group of OAPs are on holiday in India. But I like this – why must we always be going somewhere? I like this place, it’s nice and warm and colourful and there are cows in the street, I think I want to stay.

Back in the Picturehouse I am, as always, reeeeally enjoying the fact that the chairs recline AND as an added bonus I wore a pashmina so big it doubles up as a blanket. Winning. … So I might dose off at some point in the middle … But it seems appropriate given the nature of the film. This seems like an insult I know, but it’s not I assure you. It’s just that I feel so incredibly comfortable. I mean, I know these characters so well: I can close my eyes and still know exactly the posture of Bill Nighy’s hands or the teasing glance I’m being given by Celia Imrie.

Bill Nighy, it is worth noting, plays Bill Nighy, magnificently well. But then again he always does. While Dame Jude dons chic satin scarves and wanders through markets whilst reminding us all why she is one of our finest national treasures. The annoying but nice woman from Downton Abbey does a good annoying but nice woman in India. Dev Patel plays the same hyperbolized hotel manager as he did in the first film. A scathing critic would deplore his overtly caricaturist portrayal of an ambitious Indian business man, but I am no such cynic. I love a cultural cliché and a zesty Bollywood dance routine.

As expected there are many many many jokes about the ultimate ascent, which I duly note in my head but are not worthy of an actual LOL. I always wonder at those people who belt out laughter at genuinely unfunny jokes in the cinema… Who are they? Do they simply want their fellow audience members to know that they understand the pun, complex as it was… or are they just morons with an embarrassingly low threshold for comedy? Actually I really am not one to judge, I was once in such hysterics whilst trying to tell the joke about the Chinese dentist’s favourite time (two-thirty) I had to stop for fear of actually weeing myself.

My mind wanders in and out of the film, I enjoy having this freedom to roam whilst being able to perfectly keep up with the plot. I feel soothed yet excited about the prospect of being old and rebellious and an ex-pat living in India.

This film is many things – not least an excellent advertisement for the Indian tourist board, not most a schmorgesboard of tired cultural clichés. I realise that at twenty-two I’m a little sad for using the cinema as my form of escapism – instead of gallivanting on motorbikes with no helmet on – through the streets of Mumbai – as the seventy-somethings do in the movie. “There is no present like the time” says Maggie so poignantly.

As I take off my glasses, remove the pashmina/blanket from my lap and carefully rewrap my remaining macaroons for another day – I gain the fleetingly harsh realisation that these spirited OAPs are living with more youthful exuberance and zest than I – Sarah, aged 22 am. But then I remember all those other valuable lessons I’ve learnt throughout the course of the movie – most distinctly – that it’s never too late to do anything – not least make a substandard film to be loved the nation over. On the tube home we make exciting plans to travel to India in search of ourselves and the OAP ex-pats – who are, presumably, still trapped in that ramshackle hotel, desperate for a decent cup of tea and some youthful company. But owing to a lack of funds we agree to instead just go to the cinema more often. A good compromise.