While suffering a tragic fate during her cooking tutelage with her son, Hassan’s mother gifted him with a talent for food. Having rushed out of India to Europe in hopes of finding a place to begin a restaurant, the Kadam family ends up in a village in France when their car’s brakes fail. Giving Papa just enough time to see his vision for happiness and success, he buys an unkept lot across from a highly esteemed French cuisine landmark. Catching the attention of Madame Mallory and threatening to disrupt her high-class, pristine establishment, she begins to try to sabotage their ability to find success. Meanwhile, Hassan begins to develop a friendship with one of Mallory’s sous-chefs, Marguerite. She secretly begins to teach him elements of classic French cuisine, to which he begins to strive to enhance his abilities. With the Kadam family restaurant not going away, Papa, Hassan, and Mallory being their war over food.
Starring: Helen Mirren (Madame Mallory), Om Puri (Papa), Manish Dayal (Hassan), Charlotte Le Bon (Marguerite), Amit Shah (Mansur), Farzana Dua Elahe (Mahira), Dillon Mitra (Mukthar), Aria Pandya (Aisha), Michel Blanc (Mayor), Clement Sibony (Jean-Pierre), Vincent Elbaz (Paul), Juhi Chawia (Mama)
Lasse Halletrom’s direction of this film was one that maintains a love affair with food while balancing the emotional and relationship elements of his main characters. The overall tone of the film stayed relatively light and comedic, except for three very specific and defining moments. With this, his cast performed admirably to maintain the lightness of the story while transitioning to the more serious times and their significance in telling the story. Mirren played her role with significant intensity and restraint, only to have her character more understood later in the film. Daval was quite the bright spot, though his transformation later in the film seemed a little more forced than his character would assumedly have progressed.
Food was central to this movie, and there was no shortage of delicious cuisine that graced the screen. Though some of the recipes could have been disputed for their authenticity, viewers essentially got a lesson in the elements of fine dining and Indian flavors. As Hassan worked to learn the art of French cooking, he gained new knowledge regarding preparation, sauces, flavors, and subtlety. He prepared the five mother sauces of French cooking and wowed Marguerite with his aptitude. He then had a chance to prove to Mallory through the preparation of pigeon and an omelet that he could be a great chef one day. He transforms as a man who can cook Indian food extremely well to the fusion of French cuisine to more experimental methods of flavor combinations and preparations.
The other significant element of this film was culture. The Kadams were struggling to find a new home after needing to flee from political turmoil and the murder of Mama. They attempted to set up shop in Europe but had failed until they ended up crashing the car. Their family, at least Papa and Hassan, saw an opportunity to bring their food, music, and culture to the French people. Madame Mallory simply saw their restaurant as an abomination. She abhorred Indian culture, though mostly because it was potential competition for her belief in classic cuisine. She was so caught up in the competition that she inadvertently sent her obsessive chef Jean-Pierre to do her dirty work and nearly destroy Hassan’s career. It was only at this point that she realized how short-sighted she was.
The film was a little uneven in the middle, with some beautiful moments and others that were a little thin on the development. The love of food was prevalent, but to a slightly lesser degree than the early summer hit Chef. This was still a great movie that has some chance of a little Oscar buzz.
Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5