21 June 2007 | gradyharp
Visuals 5, Story 3, But a Pleasure to Watch
THE MISTRESS OF SPICES has some of the most beautiful use of color and texture in the form a magical Spice Bazaar that has graced a DVD. It also has as its protagonist the very beautiful Aishwarya Rai and the love interest of the always-reliable Dylan McDermott. The story was created and directed by Paul Mayeda Berges (with help from Gurinder Chada) who has given us such fine films as "Paris, je t'aime', 'Bride & Prejudice' and 'Bend It Like Beckham'. So the question arises as to why this film just doesn't quite make it: the reason may be the tough marriage of fantasy with reality, assigning more importance to dialog between the Mistress and the spices than to the development of storyline.
Tilo (the ravishingly beautiful Aishwarya Rai) was taken in as a child by a spiritually inclined First Mother (Zohra Sehgal) who trains young girls the mysteries of spices - their magic, their meaning and their rigid life style imposed on the developing Mistresses. Those who gain the secrets of the spices are sent into the world, warned never to use the magic for them selves, never to touch human skin, and never to leave the shops where their spices are shared to help mankind. Tilo moves to the Bay Area and does good deeds for her customers until she meets Doug (Dylan McDermott) who needs her care after a motorcycle accident. They touch, their eyes speak of mutual desire and Tilo is thrown into conflict of being a mistress of spices or of having a love life. How situations and destiny work through the story is the meager line of the tale, the majority of the script is Tilo communicating with her spices!
The cast contains some fine character actors such as Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Caroline Chikezie, Anupam Kher, and of course Zohra Sehgal. And there is enough statement about immigrant status in America to keep the story topical. THE MISTRESS OF SPICES entertains and that is a pleasure. Just don't expect a film on the level of director Paul Mayeda Berges' other works. Grady Harp