sat 22/06/2024

The Hundred-Foot Journey | reviews, news & interviews

The Hundred-Foot Journey

The Hundred-Foot Journey

Helen Mirren goes toe-to-toe with Om Puri in Disney's cinema of cuisine culture clash

Hassan (Manish Dayal) learns a few tricks from Madame Mallory (Dame Helen Mirren) in The Hundred-Foot Journey

Imagine The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel crossed with Chocolat. That’s The Hundred-Foot Journey in one, meshing a previous success of director Lasse Hallström with the previously neglected but growing genre of 'the mature person's movie'. After all, old folks like food, don’t they? Well, so do young people. Who doesn’t?

The Hundred-Foot Journey is based on the novel by Richard C. Morais and screenplay written by Steven Knight (who wrote and directed the very good Locke with Tom Hardy), this is a filmic cuisine culture clash that benefits from a terrific cast and an alluring story. Shot as a visual travelogue that warrants the ticket price, who wouldn’t pay to see the always remarkable Helen Mirren going toe-to-toe with her equal Om Puri in a foodie tale of different traditions from different worlds?

A bit of background, however, first: The Hundred-Foot Journey is from Disney, and produced by Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg. So its tone is expectedly soft, lovely and not so smart that it offends. When the Kadam family flee India after a vague political uprising that nevertheless burns down their restaurant and kills Mrs Kadam, the remaining family piles into a car. Via the UK, they end up in rural France, where their vehicle breaks down. Thank the gods for a young woman - Marguerite (one to watch, Charlotte Le Bon) - who takes them in and introduces them to the wonders of local produce.

The focus switches, pretending to be on the food but really aiming at high profile chefs where sexism is rife

So, the ancient French village of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val provides a home via an empty restaurant venue for the family to settle, despite their cuisine not being understood or necessarily wanted. When local dislike is made manifest, it’s only “racism lite”, thank heavens, against the little curry house Papa Kadum names 'Maison Mumbai', picked out of the dark Gallic ruins by a lighted sign that has an annoyingly twee flickering letter that never ever gets fixed. The venue is right across from the Michelin-starred establishment of Madame Mallory (Mirren). The noise and spicy smells from the Kadam restaurant are good enough to disturb the control-freak who seeks to get her competitor shut down. 

Of course, something wonderful happens: the young folks begin to cross some borders. The good looking son of Puri, so handsome he’s actually called Hassan (Manish Dayal) and the family's savoir, Mallory's beautiful sous-chef Marguerite, are in competition with each other and also falling in love (best said with a Pepe LePew French accent). Marguerite helps Hassan get ahead by giving him hardcore cookery books in the original French, which, apparently, he can read immediately.

Hassan narrates so much, we must understand that despite all the other characters, this must be his story. The trouble is, he isn't the focus: it switches, pretending to be on the food but really aiming at high profile chefs where sexism is rife, although the number of female chefs at a Michelin standard are growing. There are some surprises tucked in for a rather damp ending.

While The Hundred-Foot Journey isn’t as good as, say, Babette’s Feast, Tampopo or even Ratatouille (which has one spectacular scene in it), it does look amazing thanks to cinematographer Linus Sandgren (American Hustle and Promised Land) who shows the beautiful countryside and contrasts the hard kitchen surfaces of Mallory’s restaurant and matches the warm tones of Maison Mumbai’s exotic spices. The food looks great but not as yummy as Favreau's Chef. Still, make sure you eat first.

A safe, pretty film that is only as challenging as it needs to be, The Hundred-Foot Journey is an appropriate drama that cuts across cultural boundaries showing us... not a lot. But it's charming and inoffensive.

A visual travelogue that warrants the ticket price


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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