A deft mix of food, love, and humanism, The Hundred-Foot Journey is an unapologetic crowd-pleaser. Director Lasse Hallstrˆmís adaptation of Richard C. Moraisí novel works, thanks to a number of charismatic actors and a smart script by talented writer Steve Knight.
As the movie opens, the Kadam family, who fled India after a political upheaval resulted in the burning of their family restaurant and the death of their matriarch, emigrate from London to the south of France. Led by the proud and stubborn Papa (Om Puri), the family buy an abandoned eatery in the countryside -- which just happens to be situated 100 feet from the front door of Le Saule Pleureur, a successful French restaurant with a Michelin star run by the imperious Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren), who has kept the place thriving in memory of her deceased husband.
Mallory is none too pleased when she learns that the Kadams plan to open an Indian place right next door, leading to a racially tinged feud that only intensifies when she discovers that Papaís son Hassan (Manish Dayal) is an exceedingly talented chef. After some unexpected violence leads to an act of contrition on Malloryís part, the two factions begin a tentative friendship. Eager to obtain another star for Le Saule Pleureur, Mallory offers to train Hassan and have him work in her kitchen alongside her talented sous-chef Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), with whom the young man is already smitten.
Executive produced by Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg, The Hundred-Foot Journey is as middlebrow as it gets. Screenwriter Steve Knight, whose work often contains political undercurrents, does touch on issues related to immigration here, yet the movie is really an old-fashioned Hollywood tale of tolerance that wouldnít dream of upsetting anyone. However, the filmís politics are strictly window dressing for the delightful performances and delectable images of food and the French countryside.
Manish Dayal is handsome and charming as a gifted young man who is only interested in improving his craft and falling in love. Le Bon looks like a French Winona Ryder, and she balances Margueriteís affection for Hassan with her resentment at the competition he represents.
While those young actors keep this solid piece of entertainment humming along, Puri and Mirren steal every scene theyíre in. He gets most of the filmís big laughs, which he delivers with hangdog earnestness, while she gets to play the ice queen who thaws. Thereís a moment late in the movie in which she gets good news from a phone call, and her physical reaction, so overwhelming and so true, makes you totally believe that what youíre seeing is happening for the first time. Itís the kind of telling little detail that has made Mirren such a respected actress.
Hallstrˆm has worked in this territory before, earning a Best Picture nomination for the frothy Chocolat -- another film where the food mattered as much as the characters. Oscar voters probably wonít remember this one come nomination time, but thatís all well and good because The Hundred-Foot Journey isnít high-end cuisine; itís comfort food that has been prepared and presented with skill and pleasure.
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- Released: 2014
- Rating: PG
- Review: A deft mix of food, love, and humanism, The Hundred-Foot Journey is an unapologetic crowd-pleaser. Director Lasse Hallstrˆmís adaptation of Richard C. Moraisí novel works, thanks to a number of charismatic actors and a smart script by talented writer Steve… (more)