Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Writer: Steven Knight, based on the novel by Richard C. Morais
Cast: Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, Charlotte Le Bon, Amit Shah, Farzana Dua Elahe, Dilton Mitra, Aria Pandya, Michel Blanc
Running Length: 122 minutes
Synopsis: Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal) is a culinary ingénue with the gastronomic equivalent of perfect pitch. Displaced from their native India, the Kadam family, led by Papa (Om Puri), settles in the quaint village of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val in the south of France. Filled with charm, it is both picturesque and elegant – the ideal place to settle down and open an Indian restaurant, the Maison Mumbai. That is, until the chilly chef proprietress of Le Saule Pleureur, a Michelin starred, classical French restaurant, Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren), gets wind of it. Her icy protests against the new Indian restaurant a hundred feet from her own, escalate to all out war between the two establishments – until Hassan’s passion for French haute cuisine and for Madame Mallory’s enchanting sous chef, Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), combine with his mysteriously delicious talent to weave magic between their two cultures and imbue Saint-Antonin with the flavors of life that even Madam Mallory cannot ignore.
Review: Not every movie needs to be groundbreaking to be entertaining, and this is totally embodied in The Hundred-Foot Journey, a derivative, by-the-numbers culture clash movie that somehow manages to be light and enjoyable despite being entirely predictable from start to end. Much of this is due to the eminent Helen Mirren, who manages to elevate the film to a higher level with her performance, despite a really exaggerated Gallic accent.
Although this is a movie about food, Lasse Hallstrom has actually kept “food porn” sequences to a minimum – of course there are still scenes of cooking, but he seems more intent on showing the various interactions amongst the leads. That’s not a bad thing, and other than Helen Mirren, who is flawless in every scene, the rest of the ensemble cast are all also capable performers, which means that these interactions are never uninteresting. Hallstrom and his director of photography Linus Sandgren also manage to capture the beauty of the little French village, resulting in many sun-bathed, postcard perfect shots of Saint-Antonin. This is also augmented by an excellent (though somewhat clichéd) score by A.R. Rahman, almost on par with his work on Slumdog Millionaire.
The Hundred-Foot Journey offers no surprises from beginning to end, and the culinary journey of Hassan goes exactly as one would expect. The film does feel a little spent by its third and final act, however, and although the intention was surely to tug at the heartstrings of the audience, this third act is the weakest link and least emotionally resonant in my opinion. Its inclusion also draws the film out to just a hair over two hours, which is arguably a little too long for its own good. Fortunately, there is enough goodwill built up from the preceding segments that it does not diminish the movie by too much, and this cinematic equivalent of comfort food will surely be a crowd pleaser for almost anyone willing to give it a try. If The Hundred-Foot Journey were a restaurant, it probably won’t earn any Michelin stars, but will still get a solid recommendation via word of mouth.
Rating: * * ½ (out of four stars)