Dr. Donna Copeland’s
HELEN MIRREN MANISH DAYAL CHARLOTTE LE BON OM PURI
The HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY
I worry a little bit about moguls Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey funding and producing a project. Besides wading through a little too much sweetness and sentimentality, The Hundred Foot Journey, based on the best-selling book and directed by Lasse Hollstrom, does find its footing. Anchored by Oscar winning Helen Mirren (The Queed, Red), The Hundred Foot Journey sits nicely along films like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel or Hollstrom’s own Chocolat. After the first 15 minutes of a family from Mumbai literally crashing into a small town in France, you can predict the ending, the romance and the truce.
After losing everything in a fire in their hometown, The Kadam family moves from Mumbai to Europe. They are traveling through various cities and countryside’s looking for the perfect place to bring their famous cooking to new people. Unfortunately, they crash in a tiny town in France that already has a famous restaurant. Determined to make it here, Papa (Puri) the suborned patriarch buys the dilapidated property across the street from the classy French restaurant and turns the entire village on its head, including the owner of the restaurant, Madame Mallory (Mirren). The son and chef of the family, Hassan (Dayal), will cook his way into the hearts of everyone around and bridge the gap between the competing restaurants.
The challenge for Hallstrom as a filmmaker is how you keep the audience interested in a story that basically reveals itself in the opening act. For much of the film it relies on comedy between Mirren and Puri, who become competing adversaries. This isn’t an unfamiliar world or storyline for Hallstrom, who has helmed similar stories like The Shipping News or the more recent Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, always focused on outsiders traveling to a new place to start again and change the people around them. This film also follows the path of traditional films from India that focus on family, faith and love.
Mirren is perfectly cast here as a beautiful but resentful woman who, of course, learns a valuable lesson. Sure, this film is predictable and ordinary in many ways, but in the final act the characters remind us of the importance of family, sacrifice and good food. Hallstrom is always placed into adaptations with fantastic scenery, and Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, Tarn-et-Garonne, France is no exception. It won’t make your mouth water like Chef did, but this film rallies around in the end to become a quite enjoyable experience. Final Thought – Despite it’s over sentimentalized story and predictable ending it’s an enjoyable and lesson learning journey.
By: Dustin Chase
Make sure you book a gourmet French or Indian meal for a post-film dinner after attending The Hundred-Foot Journey, because you are surely going to want something delicious to savor afterwards. I swear I could smell the food as soon as the film started with pictures of a busy, prosperous restaurant kitchen in Mumbai, with huge steaming pots of exotic dishes. This doesn’t last long, because a political storm occurs, and the family that owns the establishment has to flee. The father has something of a wanderlust, so they go first to London, but when they find the vegetables there “have no soul”, they head for the south of France.
Papa (Om Puri), a bargainer, finds what he thinks is the perfect building to start again, and although his older sons try to keep him from offending the French in all kinds of ways, he manages to buy the property. It’s touch and go, though, because there is a one-star Michelin restaurant owned by Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren) just a hundred feet away. Cultural clashes abound, but because the younger people are more tolerant of differences—even seek them out—they never get out of hand. Well, except for one time.
The film’s strengths include its depiction of these cultural differences and how people struggle with them, yet often manage to work through them. The Indian family’s teamwork is inspiring, and Madame Mallory achieves something comparable among the French staff. The film is visually beautiful and powerful in eliciting sensory delight (Linus Sandgren, cinematographer; David Gropman, production design; A. R. Rahman, music). Mirren and Puri bring their illustrious experience to their roles, and are impressive in conveying a slowly evolving relationship throughout time. Manish Dayal as the cook Hassam is probably up and coming as an actor; his facial expressions easily convey a wide range of complex feelings and senses, especially when he is sniffing foods at the market or dishes in an elegant French restaurant. He and the French sous chef Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon) electrify the screen, not with heavy, sweaty passion, but with a realistic deepening of care and respect.
Unfortunately, The Hundred-Foot Journey is a little too perfect, a little too sweet, a little too expected in the first half. As relationships deepen and the plot thickens in the second half, though, we are rewarded with a lovely, colorful, soulful picture of human beings with value and depth.
By Donna R. Copeland