"The Hundred Foot Journey" is a kissing cousin to "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." It's a very pleasant trip taken by good people with good karma in search of good food.
Helen Mirren is outstanding as Madame Mallory, the meticulous proprietor of an upscale restaurant in a French county town. When a family of refugees from India opens a lowbrow bistro across the street, she embarks on a campaign to eliminate her new competition.
The eldest son of the Indian clan is a magnificent cook who yearns to combine the flavors of his native culture with the traditional fare of southern France. He and his father must overcome many trials to help the new family business succeed. In the complex process, they eventually become heartfelt friends and colleagues of the stern Madame.
Along the way, romance flowers between the older and younger generations of the two clashing cultures. The plot plays out with such wit and charm that a viewer will gladly suspend reality to bask in the delight of the exuberant ride. Produced by Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey, the finished product is intelligent and polished to a high shine.
Some adult fare for summer
Not in the mood for summer blockbusters? Here are two smart, absorbing movies to check out:
"Calvary" opens with Father Lavelle hearing a man's confession that he was abused since the age of 7 by another priest. The man states his intention to kill Lavelle as an act of revenge. A brief look of pain is the priest's only reaction.
Brendan Gleeson, in a powerhouse performance, plays the priest as a flawed, compassionate man in a small town full of flawed, resentful souls — any one of whom could be his assassin. Lavelle's faith is severely put to the test in what may be his last week on earth.
Shot against a gorgeous, moody Irish coast, "Calvary" is a melancholy essay about sin and forgiveness.
"A Most Wanted Man" is a film adaptation of a John Le Carré spy thriller featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman in his last starring role.
Hoffman is Gunther Bachmann, a world-weary head of a German intelligence network looking for Islamic terrorists. Currently, his attention is focused on a mysterious Chechen who has arrived illegally in Hamburg. What are his intentions?
Le Carré's thrillers are suspenseful yet cerebral and require one's utmost attention. In "A Most Wanted Man," there are no explosions, no martinis and no buxom babes. The seduction is in Gunther's recruiting new spies in the guise of making the world a better place. The result is always betrayal upon betrayal; governments make their power plays but no one is any safer.
The movie's closing is a bittersweet reminder of Hoffman's tremendous talent and a sense that his character's demons might have mirrored some of his own.
As we have been sadly reminded this week, brilliance comes at a heavy price.
JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator. SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.