/md“The Trip to Italy” and “The Hundred Foot Journey”, “Magic in the Moonlight”
At the Theatre with Audrey Linden
There is really no comparison between “the Hundred Foot Journey” and “The Trip to Italy” other than they both are about food and travel. Both “Hundred” and “Trip” have exquisite scenic footage and feature fabulous gourmet dishes. Both films were close to two hours in length and provided a wonderful escape. Both were enjoyable. There any comparisons end.
The Hundred Foot Journey” is an exquisite film, so well directed by Lasse Hallstrom, with a script of fully realized characters written by Steven Knight and the story by Richard C. Morais. Helen Mirren nails the character of Madame Mallory, the stuffy, perfectionist French widow and restaurant proprietor. Her French accent is flawless and she really has a broom up her ass in the beginning of the film. Manish Dayal as ingénue chef, Hassan Kadam is a wonder to watch. He is gorgeous and has such expressive eyes. Pair him with the beautiful Charlotte Le Bon as Marguerite and the sparks ignite. Om Puri as Pappa Kadam gives a dash of spice to the film as he is obstinate and a perfect match for the stubborn Madame Mallory. The film is not just a culinary delight about gourmet food and a gastronomical adventure melding Indian and French cuisine; it is a deep and insightful view into peoples’ lives and their journey to a new land, their struggles as attempt to succeed in the countryside in France.
Pappa and his family fled India after his wife (Juhi Chawla) was killed during an uprising when their restaurant was burned. Pappa begins a nomadic journey with his children to Europe. When his truck’s brakes fail, it is providence that they failed in the beautiful French countryside near the site of a vacated restaurant. Pappa consults his deceased wife, and against all arguments from his three grown children and two smaller children, he buys the property. Forget that Madame Mallory’s well-established and celebrated French restaurant, Le Saule Pleurer has a coveted one star Michelin rating. Pappa Kadam is determined to succeed in opening his Indian restaurant, Mombai, which is 100 feet across from her restaurant. Thus, the war between the two cultures begins. It is a cultural clash and a bridge of 100 feet that cannot be crossed or tolerated. Each tries to sabotage the other, and watching veteran actors Mirren and Om Puri go at it is so entertaining.
Toss a little sweetness into the mix with a budding friendship between Hassan and Marguerite and you have the elements of a romantic comedy between the younger couple. The Hindi, French battle continues between the older pair. There is a melding of cultures and a melding of exotic spices from India with the classical precision of time honored and trusted French cuisine in the cooking and in the ensuing relationships. Add a dash of Indian curry into the classic French recipe and war breaks out.
The story is inspiring, the script well written and acting superb. Add beautiful scenery from the French village and Paris and the glorious shots of Indian and French gourmet cuisine and this is a trip well worth taking. Consider that this was a best-selling novel and the film was produced by Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey. I think you have an Oscar contender.
“The Trip to Italy”, written and directed by Michael Winterbottom, starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon takes us to six different place in six cities to sample gourmet Italian cuisine in Italy, Liguria, Tuscany, Rome, Amalfi, and Capri. This was a call-back to their ‘Road Trip” film. The scenery was beautiful; the food had me wishing I were there at each of the restaurants. There really was nothing more to the story than two actors being themselves.
The dialogue seemed improvised as Rob Brydon lapsed into his stream of impersonations of Al Pacino, Christian Bale, Roger Moore, Anthony Hopkins, Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan, Truman Capote, Marlon Brando, and numerous other famous actors and celebrities. His antics were countered with quips by Steve Coogan who did a better impression of Brando as he stuffed rolls in his cheeks and did his impersonation of Brando as the Godfather. Coogan was the straight man. At times, I wished the two would have slowed down or stopped altogether so I could have a respite to enjoy the location and the food. Their rapport never ended. I wished they had savored the food more and really taken in their surroundings rather than used all as a backdrop for their talents.
Brydon had another agenda, which was to see places Lord Byron had lived. We got an interesting bit of history added. I loved the scene in Pompeii and felt as if I were there. Again, I would have enjoyed a little slower pace to really take it all in. All-in-all, the film was an almost two hour delight with some of the humor a little juvenile. I enjoyed myself on their trip, which was a pleasant diversion. It did not have the story that “The Hundred Foot Journey” had, and it did not the well-crafted script, or character development. “The Trip to Italy” was not about that. It was about Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon being themselves as they joked their way and dined, slept, and dallied through six wonderful places.
Woody Allen’s “Magic in the Moonlight” starring Colin Firth and Emma Stone, which took place in England was a romantic comedy and was a 90 minute plus delightful flight into fantasy. He paired Firth, as Stanley , aka magician Wei Ling Soo, who does make it as a romantic lead, with the beguiling Stone as the young psychic, Simon Mc Burney as his friend, Howard Burkan, and Eileen Atkins as Aunt Vanessa, Marcia Gay Harden, Jacki Weaver, Hamish Linklater, Erica Leerhsen, and Eileen Atkins. It is another picturesque film which is set in the French Riviera in the 1920s.
Grouchy perfectionist, Stanley Crawford , who is the renown and celebrated famous magician, Wei Ling Soo is brought in by his friend and fellow magician, Howard to investigate what appears to be a young psychic, clairvoyant, charlatan, Sophie, who is bilking his very wealthy friends, the Catledges. Their son, Brice is smitten with Sophie and is thinking of marrying her. If anyone can debunk the mystery and expose her, it is Stanley, who believes in nothing supernatural. He is a stodgy curmudgeon. He tries to discover Sophie’s hidden talents but succumbs to her illusions and falls in love. The story was a bit of a stretch, but is a charming period piece set in beautiful locations and though Firth’s Stanley seems old enough to be Sophie’s father, their attraction works as it is a slow enough build. Stanley is so set on finding Sophie is a fraud, that he is not aware she is coming to like him. And, he has a lady friend he is used to. And, young, wealthy Brice is after Sophie as he croons corny love songs to her in an attempt to woo her. The entire Catledge family seems to believe in Sophie. And, so does Stanley fall under her spell. After Stanley’s Aunt, the one person he really seems to love and revere, has an accident and is in serious condition, he comes to his senses. Or does he? Is she a fraud or not?
I do not want to tell you the plot and spoil it, because Woody Allen, as usual has written a little intrigue and mystery into the script.
Allen takes us on a beguiling trip into people’s nature, and tries to discover what makes them tick. He shows us their flaws and we come to care for them flaws and all. I was entranced by the lovely scenery, the time into the past of the 1920’s, the stylized sets and costumes, and the dilemma. It was ninety plus minutes of escapism. The age difference between Stanley and Sophie bothered me at first, but I accepted it as the film progressed.
The acting was very good with all giving believable performances. I recommend this film.
Of the three films, and each was different, I liked “the Hundred Foot Journey” the best. It really was a stand-out film in all areas, writing, directing, and acting.
All three films are now currently playing at the West side Landmark Theatre. For show times, check your newspaper or go on line to www.tickets.landmarktheatres.com The Landmark I sat 10850 Pico Bl. 310-470-0492 Pico and Overland. There is ample underground parking which is free for the frst 3 hours and with validation, an additional $3.00 for 2 hours.
Audrey Linden is a writer, actress and singer. She can be seen in a long-running “Associated Tax Resolution” commercial, two “Little Caesars” spots, a “Teva International Pharmaceutical” short, Gene Simmons’ “Family Jewels,” “America’s Court with Judge Ross,” VHS “Tough Love 2,” “Wendy’s” , “Shimmer” commercial etc.
Audrey teaches ON CAMERA COMMERCIAL and IMPROV COMEDY WORKSHOPS through the City of Beverly Hills. To register, call 310-285-6850. Her classes are held at 241 Moreno Dr. B.H. 90212. Her classes are on-going in June through July and start again in September. For more information, contact Audrey at email@example.com