“The Hundred-Foot Journey” takes some spices from India mixed with mouth-watering French cuisine and a dollop of timeless English panache to combine for a crowd-pleasing entrée. Directed by Lasse Hallström, with screenplay by Steven Knight, based on Richard C. Morais’ book, “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is a sensual delight…or as a famous chef once said, “La sauce, c’est tout!”
The Kadam family, recently arrived immigrants from India to France, has been through some hard times. Because they ran a restaurant in India, they decide to open a restaurant in their new country. When their car breaks down in a small French village near the site of a failed restaurant, the family’s elder, Papa (Om Puri), believes that the fates (and his late wife) want the family to open their restaurant on that very spot. As luck would have it, that site is directly across the street from a well-known French restaurant owned by Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren). “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is the distance between Madame Mallory’s Michelin-star restaurant and what will be the new Indian restaurant. More than annoyed by competition she believes beneath her, Madame does everything in her power to make the restaurant fail, but in Papa she has met her match…and then some. Although she’s loathe to admit it, she is intrigued by the family, especially young Hassan (Manish Dayal), who impresses her early on with his culinary skills. Will the two restaurants be able to co-exist? Answering that question is where much of the movie’s joy lies.
Once you get over the idea of Mirren playing a French woman, she becomes a lot of fun to watch. In Om Puri she has the perfect sparring partner. The two have so much chemistry, it’s easy to picture a sequel for just the two of them. Manish Dayal and Charlotte Le Bon (Marguerite), as the secondary leads, work well together, and Dayal is especially charming. There is something about his performance that makes you believe he really is a chef. His best scenes are actually when he is cooking or when he’s talking about food. Le Bon’s Marguerite seems like the stereotypical French girl—the one who does everything effortlessly. We don’t learn much about her, but she is very good as the film’s guide to what makes Madame Mallory tick.
It seems that any movie which has the slightest tinge of a Disney association—the distributor in this case—has a touch of sadness to it, and “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is no exception. The film’s opening sequences are hard to watch, but helps you understand what drives Papa. And while the film doesn’t dwell on discrimination or prejudice, it doesn’t shy away from the topic either. It very realistically touches upon the prejudice the Indian family faces initially in the small French community.
“The Hundred-Foot Journey” is a genuine feel-good movie without being cloying or overly sweet. Fans of any of the televised cooking shows will enjoy the conversations about food…the scenes seem very authentic and make you believe that is how real chefs talk about the art of cooking. But whether you love watching chefs cook or just love to eat, “The Hundred-Foot Journey” should be on your entertainment menu. With terrific acting, beautifully photographed food and a visit to France, you should “just pack your knives and go.”