Right, so I saw the trailer for this movie and I figured it would be awful. It’s a PG rated movie about this group of Indian immigrants who move in across the street from a fancy restaurant in France, run by Helen Mirren, and open a raucous Indian restaurant. Cultures clash; handsome Indian boy, cute French girl; Mirren sneers as Om Puri’s Indian patriarch chuckles warmly; Hallstrom’s camera captures gorgeous French countryside. I mean we know where this is going. But the decent reaction got me to go. Well, I was mostly right. The film never steps foot outside of the most clichéd road for sure. But there are a few moments that are actually surprisingly well written and the actors are all really solid. I was surprised to find myself genuinely moved at a few points in the film. Mirren actually doesn’t phone this one in; there’s a wonderful, quiet scene when she realizes just how good the Indian chef actually is. It’s all in her expressions and body language. And later, there’s a breathtakingly great scene when Manish Dayal, playing the chef, gets a chance to really show off his stuff. In this scene, he’s kind of achieved his dream, but only at the cost of being separated from his family (clichéd, right?) but something as simple as a homemade Indian meal is enough for all the memories and emotions to come flooding back. Again, it’s not a new idea, but Dayal really, really sells the moment and it’s the most powerful in the film. I was pleasantly surprised. The film isn’t awful at all. It’s not going to necessarily change your mind if this is a genre you’re just not into, but for those who like this kind of thing, this is really a superlative genre piece. Yes, it stumbles into a lot of the warm-hearted pitfalls of this type of movie; flat characters, lame humor, Pollyannaish optimism, shallow themes. But the film has strengths too. The images of the countryside and the food are gorgeous; the A.R. Rahman score is really good; the cast are all committed; and the script is occasionally a bit smarter than you expect it to be. I’m going to give the movie a conditional recommendation; if this is the kind of movie you think you’d like, then I think you’ll love it. Good movie. 3 stars.
tl;dr – this movie doesn’t care about being anything but feel-good, lightweight, cinematic comfort-food and the cheesy clichés are non-stop, but beautiful images and an excellent cast elevate the clichéd script. 3 stars.