⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Rating: R for language, drug use and some sexual content.
Anna Kendrick plays against type as a young woman whose extended stay at her married brother’s house reveals her troubling personality problems. Director Joe Swanberg and Melanie Lynskey play the new parents — he a minor-league film director, she a blocked writer — hosting her. Lynskey is first irritated, then worried about her sister-in-law’s irresponsible drinking and drug use. This semi-improvised indie accomplishes its modest goal, which is to explore the way a vexing relationship between in-laws can yield unexpected personal growth and warm bonds of affection. Not an earth-shattering insight, but enough to power this agreeably modest vehicle. Kendrick deftly keeps us ambivalent about her character, flashing her dazzling smile frequently, but keeping her eyes cold. But it’s Swanberg’s own 2-year-old, Jude, who runs away with the show. He’s a natural-born scene stealer.
THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY
⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rating: PG for thematic elements, some violence, language and brief sensuality.
Based on the Richard Morais novel, this is a low-flame romance and low-heat feud about a family of Indian restaurateurs who set up their spicy, gaudy and noisy eatery across the road from a posh, Michelin-endorsed, haute cuisine establishment in rural France. Lasse “Chocolat” Hallstrom directs; Helen “The Queen” Mirren is the imperious, snooty French restaurant’s owner; and the young leads — Manish Dayal as the aspiring Indian chef, Charlotte Le Bon as the winsome French one — are charming. How did this smorgasbord turn out so bland? Mirren is regal as ever, and Om Puri, best known in the West for “Charlie Wilson’s War,” fumes up a nice blubbering rage as the father. But nobody else gets much screen time. Ugly French xenophobia pops up, abruptly, and is dismissed just as quickly. As Jon Favreau showed us with the far superior “Chef,” seeing the care a cook puts into the food requires an actor who is plainly doing his or her own chopping, mincing, filleting and stirring. So this “Hundred-Foot Journey” seems to end several steps shy of completion, a bland romantic comedy where the actors don’t show us their characters’ love for each other or the food that supposedly is their reason for living. They merely talk a good game.
roger moore, McClatchy-Tribune News Service
⋆½ out of four stars
Rating: R for some language, sexual references and drug use.