The Mistress of Spices (2005) starring Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Dylan McDermott, Nitin Ganatra, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Caroline Chikezie, Anupam Kher, Shaheen Khan, Sonny Gill Dulay, Nina Young directed by Paul Mayeda Berges Movie Review

The Mistress of Spices (2005)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in The Mistress of Spices (2005)

The Spice of Love

As a young girl Tilo (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) was abducted as she had the ability to see in to the future but managed to escape where she was raised in a mysterious cult of spices by the First Mother (Zohra Segal). After she grows up she is sent to San Francisco where she opens up a spice store and helps those who come to her, which she does through the power of the spices and her ability to see in to the future. But her life must be lived by a series of rules; she cannot leave the store, she cannot use her powers for her own good and no one is allowed to touch her. All is well till one day she meets Doug (Dylan McDermott) and finds herself breaking the rules. But in doing so she angers the spices and things turn bitter for Tilo as well as her customers.

Have you ever watched "Chocolat" with Juliette Binoche where she had an inner, mystical connection with confectionary which allows her to soothe people's woes. Well "The Mistress of Spices" is a little like that as we have Tilo who knows the deep secrets and healing powers of spices and so can help people through her spice concoctions. And it kind of pulls it off, may be lacking the subtlety of "Chocolat" but still attaining a certain level of mystic beauty which draws you in to this spice store and its amusing customers.

Dylan McDermott in The Mistress of Spices (2005)

But "The Mistress of Spices" isn't just a spicy clone of "Chocolat" as it has a different style and part of that is in the flashbacks where we learn about Tilo's story. On one handed this is needed to explain her powers and how she came to be a mistress of spices but it doesn't blend smoothly with the mysticism of the store and in truth jars even if it does allow for the wonderful Zohra Segal who plays the First mother of the spice cult and brings plenty of character to the character.

Then there is of course the romantic conflict as Tilo falls for Doug and finds herself challenged by the rules. The daft thing is that this is where the movie is let down as there is no spark, no romantic fun and that actually comes from those restrictions of the rules which limit the romantic scope. It stops it from being romantic and makes it a wordy movie which in a way is the last thing you want.

The knock on effect of this is that "The Mistress of Spices" starts to feel a little like a vehicle for Aishwarya Rai Bachchan who quite simply is ridiculously beautiful. But she can also act as well and brings so much warmth and inner beauty to her character. Unfortunately there is no great chemistry with Dylan McDermott who undoubtedly looks the part but they just don't click.

What this all boils down to is that "The Mistress of Spices" is a beautiful and entertaining romantic drama and is a perfect vehicle for Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. But whilst watching you just feel it needed more edge and if you excuse the pun, more spice.