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SYNOPSIS: Following the violent attack that burnt down their restaurant, an Indian family moves to rural France and opens an eatery across the road from a Michelin-starred French restaurant run by Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren).

Review by Louise Keller:
I loved the book with its incongruous elements of food, culture clash and dreams, but Lasse Halstrom's film is nothing but a schmaltzy saccharine shadow constructed with commercial realities in mind. It's disappointing and surprising, especially considering screenwriter Steven Knight has shaped the screenplay adaptation. Knight's screenplays for Dirty Pretty Things and Eastern Promises captured gritty issues and while Richard C. Morais' book is a different genre, there are fundamental key issues that are not given the gravitas they deserve. It's not all bad mind you, and Rohan Chand (as Hassan) makes a charismatic protagonist and the scrumptious blitz of gourmet dishes that will certainly whet your appetite.

The back-story of young Hassan's kitchen education in Mumbai, when his mother teaches him that cooking is an education for all senses is only told fleetingly, but leaves an impact. 'Where the family is... is home,' says Hassan's father Om Puri (excellent) after turbulent political times force the family from India to England and eventually to France, when the main story begins. A runaway car, a restaurant for sale and a wish to put down roots is just the start before the ongoing conflict with Helen Mirren's passionate Madame Mallory begins; she considers the newly opened Indian restaurant opposite her Michelin star establishment, to be an irritation and unwanted competition. 'If your food is like your music,' she declares pointedly, 'I suggest you turn it down.'

There are amusing moments as Madame Mallory and Hassan's father clash and put every available spanner into the works. As Hassan's love interest Marguerite, Charlotte Le Bon is delightful; she is the pretty sous-chef who befriends Hassan and teaches him that the essence of French cuisine is the mastery of the five basic sauces. The picnic scene by the river, when Hassan lets Marguerite taste his first attempts at cuisine beyond his native Indian cooking is charming, as is the blossoming relationship between them.

Unsurprisingly, food plays a crucial role and we are there on the sidelines salivating as Hassan impresses Madame Mallory with his creative culinary potential. Unfortunately, the relationship that develops between Hassan's father and Madame Mallory is overplayed and unbelievable; while Mirren does her best as the demanding, thin-lipped restaurateur, this is not her best role.

On some levels the film will please: it's undemanding in a fairy-tale kind of way. But it could have been so much more, It's a shame that Halstrom's film does not strive to capture the book's gritty realism and in doing so offer its audience a knock out journey that has something meaningful to say.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Whether you've read the book (a great read) or not, this adaptation will seem inauthentic on several levels, not the least for Helen Mirren's performance as Madame Mallory. The French accent is notoriously difficult, especially for English actors in my view, and it isn't just about the sounds but about the French character that produces it. The attitude, if you like. For all her greatness, Mirren here is just acting.

The provincial town square looks like a film set, as does their market, and the romance behind the scenes plays like a long false note. Manish Dayal carries the central role of Hassan with assurance, and Om Puri is terrific as his loving bully of a father who likes to bargain over everything - not because he is mean, he points out, but because he's thrifty. He also likes it as a game.

Charlotte Le Bon is sweet as Hassan's love interest, and the supports are all fine, notably Michel Blanc as the long suffering, food loving Mayor.

The book's vaguely epic sweep is missing, as is its charm and its subtlety. Disappointingly, the talented Lasse Hallstršm has reduced the poignancy and earthiness to cinematic dross.

Published February 5, 2015

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(US, 2014)

CAST: Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, Charlotte Le Bon, Rohan Chand, Juhi Chawla, Amit Shah, Farzana Dua Elahe, Michel Blanc

PRODUCER: Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Juliet Blake

DIRECTOR: Lasse Hallstršm

SCRIPT: Steven Knight (book by Richard C. Morais)


EDITOR: Andrew Mondsheim

MUSIC: A. R. Rahman


RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes





DVD DISTRIBUTOR: WDS Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: February 4, 2015

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