Friday, August 22, 2014


On Christmas Day, Unbroken will be released. It is a new movie, directed by Angelina Jolie, about the book of the same title authored by Laura Hillenbrand. Larry and I listened to the audio book on our most recent trip down to SC. We often listen to audio books on our long road trips now. These books turn the mundane driving into something else entirely. Unbroken is a true, but heart-wrenching story of Louis Zamparini, an Olympic runner turned POW.

It is a story of survival and resilience. It will make a great movie. I think with Angelina Jolie directing it, she will likely graphically depict the truth of what happened to Zamparini. It will be as difficult to watch as it was to hear, I am sure. But, it is a story well worth telling, and we can't wait to go see it.

The Hundred Foot Journey

My mouth is still watering a day after viewing this lovely film. I felt like I was insulting the gift of food with the dinner Larry and I ate out last night after this movie. The cinematography was just beautiful, as were the people in it. I want to go to France and visit this restaurant in the beautiful village of . Realistically, Larry and I couldn't figure out how a restaurant so far outside the village could be such a success, but that's what going to the movies is all about: leaving reality. I'd love to know if the property depicted in the film really exists.

After leaving their beloved India, the Kadam family find themselves outside a lovely village in France. They luckily avoid a potentially fatal car accident after brakes in the family car fail, and Papa (lovingly played by Om Puri) swerves to avoid hitting a large tractor on a one-lane dirt road. The road lay above the picturesque village in a valley nestled in the Pyrenees mountains of southern France. As the family engages with people they meet there, words of Papa's deceased wife come back, "Brakes break for a reason." Destiny, and Mama, brought them to this village.

As they are being towed into the village, Papa spies a run-down property for sale. At dawn the next morning, he walks back to look at the property with his now grown son stalking behind him. This son is "just a cook", according to his own definition of himself. He learned flavors from his Mama, who was the cook in the family's restaurant in Mumbai, India. One of my favorite opening scenes, is Mama pulling her young son along a very crowded market street chasing a man carrying a basket of sea urchins on his head. She, along with many other people, are shoving money in the man's face to buy his entire supply of urchins. While they are all yelling in his face, the scene quiets down as he watches the young boy pick one up, smell it lovingly, then tastes the fruit of the urchin like it was manna from Heaven. The boy's face is so at peace with his eyes closed and his mouth savoring the delicacy before him. The man yells for everyone to be quiet and says, "For the boy who has it." He meant "it" to be the gift of food appreciation. And so, our cook in time becomes a chef.

The property he insists he will buy when his children think he's crazy (because it is his and Mama's money; not the childrens') , sits across the road from a very upscale restaurant run by the widowed Madame Mallory, played by none other than Helen Mirren. Who doesn't love her? The previous property owners, who also ran a restaurant, left town because they were intimidated by Madame Mallory's single Michelin Star rating. "A single star means you are good. Two stars means you are excellent. But attaining three stars means you are one with the gods."(I am paraphrasing a line from the movie here.) The goal of every French restaurant is to receive at least two stars. Madame Mallory's restaurant serves fine French traditional cuisine.

The Kadam family opens an Indian restaurant across the road, but finds it difficult to bring in customers. Papa's children are always embarrassed at his behavior. "This is not India. You can't stand out front and coax people in!" they yell at him. But, Papa, knows theatrics help with marketing, so after creating a wooden entrance feature that looks like a palace in India, he decides to dress in traditional golden clothes, complete with turbin, and captures his first customers by scooping up their little dog, talking sweetly, and acting like he was bringing them into his home. This tactic became successful, and in a short time, the restaurant was getting customers. His success was much to the dismay of Madame Mallory, who made it her mission to find every ordinance violation he was making and filing formal complaints against him and the restaurant.

Meanwhile, her head chef was getting more and more angry at "the curry smell everywhere. It is an insult to the senses!" he yells as he slams the kitchen window. Madame Mallory called her chef a soldier, and I think he took this as a "hint" to take matters into his own hands to get those rabble out of town. She finds out what he has instigated and fires him on the spot. Her heart softens towards the Indians across the road, and in the rain walks over to wash off the graffiti painted on their stone wall. Papa comes out and sees her. Their eyes meet, and he hands her an umbrella. Thus begins a most unlikely friendship.

Love and compatibility of cultures, food and personalities is what this movie depicts in a gorgeous setting. The young son, Hassan (played by the incredibly handsome, Manish Dayal. His eyes just kill me. What a face!), befriends Madame Mallory's Sous-Chef, the beautiful Marguerite, played by Charlotte Le Bon. He asks her advice about softening hard corn, and how she became professionally trained as a chef. He asks her if there is a book he can read, and she gifts him some, which he studies every night. Cooking is his passion, and eventually his true gift is revealed. But, "be careful what you wish for" is another theme of the movie. There is loneliness at the top, as Hassan discovers. Being the best is not enough in life if you have no one to share it with.

We loved this movie. It was a sweet love story, that was beautifully shot. The food introduced made my mouth water, and also made me want to follow a recipe once in a while, just to shake things up.
I think it is the perfect date move. This was also the first collaboration between Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey. They should do more of this. Great job.