I am writing this paragraph from the back of a tuk-tuk motorcycle taxi as we careen along dusty, potholed roads in northern Laos. It is hard to believe how few of these kinds of adventures I had before I retired almost four years ago. I am here pursuing my newly rediscovered passions of, travel, photography and writing and so loving this new journey that I call LifePart2.
In a strange coincidence, a few weeks ago I got an email from a public relations manager representing Fox Searchlight Pictures that is promoting the film “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” which is a sequel to the 2012 surprise hit “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”. She was asking if I wanted to work with them by writing a post to help promote the film. I was intrigued, but other than the promotional literature she sent I didn’t really have a lot to go on.
I mentioned the email to Sarah and she got all excited and told me that she had loved “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and thought that because it hits on a lot of the themes I am interested in I would love it too. After doing a bit of scrounging we came up with a copy of the movie and, after we watched it, I found she was right. After seeing the movie I happily agreed to do the post.
How many new lives can we have? … As many as we like.
It was nice to see an uplifting film with a great cast, that treats people near retirement age, not as out of touch or past their prime, but as real people of value making the best of circumstances that aren’t entirely in their control. It was a whimsical piece to be sure, but it also explored some interesting themes in an entertaining and thoughtful way. It was also fun to watch the characters grow as the movie progressed.
The premise of the movie revolves around a group of retirement aged, middle class Brits who are forced for various reasons, mostly financial, to leave their comfort zones and reluctantly move to a retirement hotel in Jaipur, India. The hotel is portrayed in brochures as “an Indian palace with the sophistication of an English country manor,” but of course this is not accurate. Instead, what they did find was a ramshackle hotel being run by Sonny (Dev Patel), a lovable but inept caretaker, in the center of what is a dizzying but dynamic city.
What for most of the cast was a trip of necessity turns into a series of adventures. I am a big believer in pushing personal boundaries and challenging yourself and even though the characters didn’t necessarily choose their circumstances, most of them managed to grow and expand their horizons through, what they initially thought, was a negative situation. Instead of whining and complaining they learned the skills of adaptation, empathy and the ability to see the world through different eyes.
It was fun to watch as they learned the valuable skills of living in the moment and empathy. Arguably the character that learned the most was Muriel (played by Maggie Smith) who began the movie as an ill-tempered racist, but eventually learns to know people on a personal level and is eventually won over by the charms of new cultures and environments.
Another character Evelyn (who is portrayed Judy Dench) at first seems disoriented, but after seeing her new life as a series of possibilities, finds a set of skills she didn’t know she had and learns that life indeed isn’t over until you have given up or given into negativity and despair.
One of the characters that didn’t successfully bloom Jean (played by Penelope Wilton) was too rigid and attached to the belief that life somehow is about certainty and security. She blamed others for her circumstances and refused to adapt and grow. As I have preached before, traveling, experiencing new lands and living a life of adventure can be transformative, but if you bring along too much baggage of any sort, it will doom you failure.
Perhaps some of these characters could have stayed in Britain and had easier lives, but as they learned; their lives probably would have been a smaller and less consequential. They also, learned that LifePart2 is more about possibilities when you remain open and enjoy life as it comes to you in the moment without focusing too much on your preconceptions.
Based upon the strength of the characters in the first “Marigold Hotel” movie I expect the sequel will be just as thoughtful and entertaining as the first. “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” also introduces Richard Gere into the cast and I think it will be interesting to see how he fits into the plot. Yes, there are some elements of the story that are somewhat predictable, but the biggest takeaway from the movie to me was that you are never too old to let your inner adventurer bloom.
As Evelyn asks (and answers) herself in the trailer to the sequel, “How many new lives can we have? … As many as we like.” That is a sentiment with which I totally agree.
THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL will be in theaters starting March 6th