Albert Spica (Michael Gambon) bought the Le Hollandais Restaurant. Part of the success of the restaurant is the chef, Richard Borst (Richard Bohringer). The misery of the people around him becomes apparent and that includes his wife, Georgina (Helen Mirren).
When Georgina spots a mysterious regular customer who also runs a bookshop Michael (Alan Howard), she turns to him for comfort. They are able to carry on an affair with the help of the employees in the restaurant.
The movie, however, is nowhere near being a movie about love affairs or marriages or frindship. It's a story of the bizarre and crazy. It's a film of how, with the right set up, audience can be taken for a wild and crazy ride.
Georgina, to begin with, could have opted to carry on a confidential affair and clear everyone off the knowledge of what she is doing. Instead, she takes everyone with her, sharing the responsibility and possible consequences with everyone else. She employed everyone's help, knowing that everyone around her is looking for a way to get back at his husband. It is obvious she has the cruelty that it takes. She goes to have an affair and takes everyone else involve in her "immorality". Yet, she makes her actions appear natural, as if there is no other choice which makes her look smart and less hateful.
The chef, instead of looking after his employees and the restaurant, leads the gang behind Georgina. He connives with Georgina and busies himself with revenge instead of food. He has no balls to stand up against the gangster but has enough balls to betray him and damn his employees to lies.
The lover becomes the stupid victim. His "mysterious" demeanor makes him look strong and commanding, the guy that could possibly match the gangster. Instead, he simply becomes an accessory. He was nothing more than a "device" for people to get their revenge against the gangster.
If there is any character in the movie that may be more damned, it is the gangster. He has nothing but his muscle to carry him through. He doesn't know what he can do if he can only use his resources the right way. Instead, his own wife beats him in the most cunning of ways. It was all because he didn't take right advantage of the fear everyone felt because of him.
He deserved what he got, not because he is bad but because he is stupid.