Director: Lasse Hallström
Cast: Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, Charlotte Le Bon
What's it about: The Kadams, who left Mumbai because they lost everything (well, close to everything, including mama Kadam, played by Juhi Chawla) in a fire, London because "it was too cold" and would've given Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val a miss too, were it not for their brakes failing. This story is also about Mme Mallory (Dame Mirren) and her Michelin-starred restaurant Le Saule Pleureur, which is her life. And how the two very different restaurants co-exist, with just a stretch of road between them.
What's hot: Summed up in a winner of a line: Food is memories. In that, is the very essence of the film. The writing (screenplay by Steven Knight adapting Richard C Morais' book for the screen) is crisp, witty and leaves a feel-good aftertaste on the palate of your senses. The DI and post-production team deserve a clap for making the film such a good-looking product. And if you like the fusion stuff and the Indian dishes shown in the film, you have Mumbai boy and Top Chef Floyd Cardoz to thank. The French town is picture-perfect and as idyllic as they come. Manish Dayal is photogenic, but behaves like he's sedated throughout. Charlotte Le Bon's an exquisite beauty, toothy and all, and comes off a clear charmer. And Dame Mirren is something else! Despite the rare lapse in accent, you're in love with her from the time she's on the screen. Om Puri's a delight as the rather loud Papa Kadam but appears stifled in places where I believe he would have preferred to speak in Hindi.
What's not: One wonders if this movie should've been on slow-burn. Even at 120-odd minutes, it feels like real-time. Hassan may be the star waiting to shine in this, but you wonder if simply being a natural and ambitious to boot is enough. Mirren and Puri are outright scene-stealers (the 'almost-girlfriend' scene warms your heart) but Dayal and Le Bon seem to be missing a spark (even though their silences and conversations on food contain the most profound dialogues) and that is jarring, considering how good they look together. And their coupling seems so rushed and almost too easy. Stereotypes are dealt with, but very lightly. And there are a few cliches and predictable moments.
What to do: This one is for the hopeless romantic or a passionate foodie. And if you believe that home is where the heart... and good food is. Bon appetit!