MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By Walt Disney Pictures
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom. Starring Helen Mirren, Om Puri
All the ingredients are here for a modern day Romeo and Juliet romance set in a charming French village. But rather than becoming a tasty soufflé, this dish falls flat coming out of the oven, due to its over baked and generic recipe.
Papa Kadam (Ruri) and his family are refugees from India, escaping persecution at home (due to “some election or other”) only to discover persecution when they eventually arrive in France and open up a restaurant – Maison Mumbai – across the street from a renowned “Two Star Michelin Restaurant” owned by the tyrannical Madame Mallory (Mirren).
The Indian restaurant is colorful and full of life, blasting Bollywood hits from the boombox speaker and giving the customers big plates loaded with spicy food. The French restaurant is refined and tasteful, with small portions and artistic presentation of the entrees. Before you can say “contrived coincidence”, the handsome Indian cook (Manish Dayal) and the beautiful French sous chef (Charlotte Le Bon) strike up a friendship, which includes the sharing of cookbooks.
This film has been promoted as comfort food and has two great actors in the lead roles, but rather than being a gourmet dish, it all seemed like fast food from under the heat lamp to me. The script and direction are uncomfortable creating any genuine conflict. In fact, there is no potential point of tension that is not resolved within the space of twenty minutes; and then, another plot twist is introduced, to be taken care of in short order.
This is a minor-key riff on Director Lasse Hallstrom’s 2000 movie Chocolat, which had a Lenten theme that made it an interesting discussion film.
Even the food photography seems haphazard in this movie. Instead of spending time enjoying the depiction of a good meal, we hear characters tell us how great their food is while making the appropriate facial gestures and sounds to indicate their pleasure.
The movie’s overall theme of appreciating other cultures and proclaiming “Viva La Difference!” is a good one, but I am not persuaded that either French or Indian cultures are well served with the broad depictions presented.
I would suggest that you make the hundred-foot journey down the hallway of your local multiplex to see what’s on the screen next door.
Three halos: A pleasant trifle that made me hungry for something more substantial.
One pitchfork: For ethnic stereotypes.
Our Gourmet Group viewed this movie at an Omaha theater. We felt it was an excellent movie with a good plot, great acting and spectacular landscapes and Parisan scenes.
Many times movie critics pan films that I find more than acceptable. I have learned to not put much stock in their opinions.
Yes, there are ethnic stereotypes. Unfortunately that's the way the world is. The redeeming factor is that these stereotypes fade as the discovery of their common humanity by the parties trumps suspicion, hatred and violence.
There are few good movies offered this Summer. This is one of them. "Chef" and "And So It Goes" are two more worth seeing. I don't know if these would meet the tastes and criteria of the reviewers, but they certainly meet mine.
- William John "Jack" Kouth, Retired Member of The East Ohio Conference, Omaha, NE
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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