Review: The Hundred-Foot Journey
PLOT: When the Kadam family finds themselves looking for a new life in France, they decide to set up a restaurant just across the street from one that has already been established. The family clashes with the neighboring restaurateur – an arrogant woman named Madame Mallory - even while their talented son falls for one of the rivaling employees.
REVIEW: The title of THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY refers to the distance between two rival restaurants in a quaint French village. It is a journey a young cook from India must take to become the chef his mother always taught him to be. The Lasse Hallström directed feature is visually a lavish and decedent feast of the cinematic senses, much like this year’s fantastic CHEF – a more satisfying feature from director Jon Favreau. With the creation of French and Indian cuisine, it is nearly impossible to not be taken in with all of these marvelous dishes being prepared on the screen. Great care is taken to open the viewer’s eye to the way food is prepared and the emotional response one achieves from it.
The film begins as a young man by the name of Hassan (Manish Dayal) is explaining to a border agent why he is traveling to Amsterdam with his family. He tells of a tragic tale where they lost their family owned restaurant in Mumbai – as well as his beloved mother’s life. His father, lovingly referred to as Papa (Om Puri) is seemingly on a quest, and once they arrive in France, he stubbornly purchases a run-down building with plans to bring the cuisine of India directly across the street from a classic French establishment. Once he begins building his own taste of India, Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren) – who owns the well-respected restaurant across the street – makes it clear that she will do anything to remain at the top of the food chain.
Lasse Hallström returns to what he does rather well with THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY. Incorporating food or fishing with romance is one of his specialties with films like CHOCOLAT or SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMAN – let us not discuss SAFE HAVEN. The way he visualizes the art of cooking in such a passionate way can be absolutely mesmerizing. The simple act of cracking an egg and mixing in assorted spices for an omelet is not only enticing to your palate, but it is far more visually pleasing in the care of a skilled director. It helps as well the French countryside is utterly gorgeous, especially on Bastille Day as fireworks fill the nighttime sky with the actors playing out their gourmet war below.
Helen Mirren is an enigmatic screen presence, even at her most dour. As Madame Mallory, she carries a very French air about her - as well as the accent - and she delivers a terrific performance. Om Puri is also quite good as the stubborn father who begins to develop a tender relationship with Mallory, his very powerful rival. South Carolina born Manish Dayal is a charismatic leading man and looks very comfortable in the kitchen putting together magnificent Indian cuisine. His on-screen romance with a beautiful French chef named Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon) is sweetly charming. Both Le Bon and Dayal share a remarkable chemistry together, even if the script insists on making their relationship more complicated than necessary.
Steven Knight adapted THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY from the novel by Richard C. Morais, and at times he and Hallström deliver a richly inspired tale. Unfortunately, the movie runs about a half hour too long as it attempts to pack too much into what could have been a great little film. The Romeo and Juliet romance between Hassan and Marguerite is subjected to a tacked on rivalry between the couple which feels out of place. And once Hassan moves to Paris, the journey seems redundant and dull until its predictable outcome. The brief exploration of racism could have worked far better than it did, however it is superficially injected with a sequence where arsonists attempt to destroy Hassan’s restaurant. Yet when the film does work – and it often manages to do so – there is something really special in this tantalizing romantic drama.
THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY may fall short of becoming this year’s THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL yet it is not without its charm. Helen Mirren is the perfect actress to make the heart of this hard and haughty restaurateur shine through. As well both Dayal and Le Bon make for an appealing romantic couple who have come from very different experiences. And then there is Lasse Hallström who concocts beauty from a recipe which at times mixes in far too many ingredients. This is an occasionally striking journey that seems to last just a little too long, yet at its best it is an appealing romantic drama.