THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY
Director: Lasse Hallström
Starring: Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, Charlotte Le Bon
Maybe it’s my love of cooking, eating, and anything related to food, but I am a sucker for a good foodie movie. We’ve got our second one this summer after Jon Favreau’s Chef which focused on the food truck movement. The Hundred-Foot Journey takes us to the French countryside. The Kadam family lost their family restaurant and everything else back in India due to a fire. After spending some unsuccessful time in England, they decide to take another journey and move to France. Papa (Puri) is bound and determined to get the restaurant business up and running again with his son Hassan (Dayal) as the head chef. He has his eyes set on a rundown building that just happens to be across the street from a sophisticated French restaurant that caters to classical cuisine. It is run by Madame Mallory (Mirren) who is stubborn like an ox.
She is ready to start an all-out war with her latest competitor. This only infuriates Papa even more, but Hassan continues to create wonderful dishes for their restaurant until tragedy strikes as an attempt to stop this lovely Indian family from creating their masterpieces. Madame Mallory feels a responsibility for the actions, but Papa continues to keep his guard up. Meanwhile, Hassan just wants to make good food whether it’s his traditional Indian favorites or the new French recipes he is learning from the books he receives by Mallory’s sous chef Marguerite (Le Bon).
In case you haven’t noticed any of the marketing efforts for this movie, it boasts Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey as producers. With Lasse Hallström directing the feisty Helen Mirren, you have the ingredients for a delightful and hearty movie. This also happens to be his second foodie movie including 2000’s Chocolat. Screenwriter Steven Knight has previously tackled heavier and more suspenseful films (Locke, Eastern Promises), so this is a sharp turn from that. I haven’t read the book by Richard C. Morais yet, but the story has more dimensions than I think the trailer is leading on. Each of the four main characters gets their due moments and arcs. Mirren’s Madame Mallory is not just the snobbish battle ax you expect her to be. I did start to wonder if she was going to be a one noted character, but I knew Mirren would find the layers in her. She pairs well with Om Puri who has to stand his ground against her ways. He is more than capable of that challenge. This battle between the two stubborn personalities adds some delightful humor to the story. Manish Dayal and Charlotte Le Bon are relative newcomers. Dayal is a good-looking charmer and has some sizzling chemistry with Le Bon. I suppose it’s hard to write a story centered on the love of food and not have sparks between two of the characters.
This is not just another boy meets girl from a different culture love story. There is more to it than that. It’s merely one side dish to a bigger meal. The culture and attitudes toward both cuisines plays a factor not only in the style of food, but comes into play between the characters of Papa and Madame Mallory. They are the personal embodiments to the way they describe what is so special about their cuisine. The French cooking is very subtle, sophisticated, and classy with a pinch of spice here or there. Papa’s Indian recipes are loud and powerful with a spoonful of this spice or that spice. These spices are naturally handed down to the next generation and considered an honor. It is a joy watching the fusion of these two very different temperaments and palettes spar with each other.
The Hundred-Foot Journey suffers a bit in its approach to the ending of the story. I should say multiple endings. I thought the movie was going to end once the feel-good climax happens, but the story continues with what feels like an epilogue. I’m assuming this happens in the book as well and maybe it works better there. In the movie, it almost feels too rushed and short to feel like it’s the third act. I’m slightly conflicted over it as I understand the point of it due to its commentary on the state of cooking these days and these characters, but part of me doesn’t feel like it’s actually necessary. Don’t get me wrong; it doesn’t hinder the rest of this delightful movie. How do you not drool whenever the photography of the food is handled with such care? I think some of the camera work is slowed down just to make us relish in it a bit longer. Maybe it is their way of getting us to slow down and enjoy the process of cooking in the same way we enjoy eating it. I think too often we scramble together a meal without fully appreciating the art and science behind it. I know I wanted to go home after seeing this and perfect my omelet recipe and look up those four standard French sauces.
Is it Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Foodies will no doubt devour every bite of this journey.
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS