(director: Lasse Hallstrom; screenwriters: Steven Knight/based on the novel by Richard C. Morais; cinematographer: Linus Sandgren; editor: Andrew Mondshein; music: A. R. Rahman; cast: Helen Mirren (Madame Mallory), Om Puri (Papa), Manish Dayal (Hassan Kadam), Charlotte Le Bon (Marguerite), Amit Shah (Mansur Kadam), Farzana Dua Elahe (Mahira Kadam), Dillon Mitra (Mukhtar Kadam), Aria Pandya (Aisha Kadam), Michel Blanc (Mayor), Clément Sibony (Jean-Pierre), Juhi Chawla (Mama); Runtime: 122; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Steven Spielberg/Oprah Winfrey/Juliet Blake; DreamWorks Pictures and Participant Media; 2014-English, French, Hindi dialogue, with English subtitles if needed)
An overdone and overlong bland middle-brow food pic, that uncomfortably sticks to your ribs with its overload on life lessons.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An overdone and overlong bland middle-brow food pic, that uncomfortably sticks to your ribs with its overload on life lessons. It’s directed by the overrated Lasse Hallstrom(“The Hoax”/”Chocolat“/”Dear John”), who tries to keep it digestible as a comfort food movie filled with cliches and is hung up on cultural stereotyping. It’s based on the novel by Richard C. Morais and is cloyingly written by Steven Knight, as a disservice to the well-written book by being over plotted and with no aim more than to be commercially successful. It merely serves to kill time between meals, and is just another mediocre film trying to cash in on the lure of the restaurant business. Five minutes after seeing the film I was hungry to see something more tasty.

The tale begins in Mumbai, where the Kadam family runs a successful traditional Indian restaurant and mom (Juhi Chawla) recognizes her oldest son Hassan (Manish Dayal) has the love of cooking in his blood and she teaches him all her secret recipes. During troublesome political times, their restaurant is burnt down (which is never explained why) and mom dies. Hassan’s dad (Om Pur) moves the large family to London for a year, and then to a small village in the south of France, Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val. Here the political refugees buy a run-down mansion and convert it to a restaurant. They open their soulful Indian restaurant, Mumbai Mansion, just a hundred-feet across the street from the snooty elegant traditional Michelin-one starred Le Saule Pleureur, that’s sternly run by the foodie maven widowed Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren). This starts a restaurant war, a forbidden romance between Hassan and the Gallic rival restaurant’s sous chef Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), it brings out village racists who burn down the new foreign restaurant, but this time the family refuses to run; and, eventually a dull tale of assimilation unfolds-which is really what this heavy-handed mess is supposed to be about.

Before serving its last omelet, all loose ends are tied up: the two widowed restaurant rivals learn their life lessons well and become cautious lovers; after Hassan works for Mallory and gets her another coveted Michelin star through his creative new recipes, he tours the world as a high-paid famous celebrity chef until he recalls his hometown spices and returns to partner with Marguerit in both a French village restaurant business and romance.

Nothing about the film seems authentic. I also must say I never cared much for the spicy Indian dishes but loved the French cooking with their delicate sauces. In this film they are passed off as equally good classical foods. You can sell that tale to someone else, because I can’t buy anything about this disappointing film even that food opinion.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”