There have been many great movies made about food. "Chocolat" and "Julie & Julia" just to name a couple. There are so many ways those movies can be put together, a couple of restaurants battling it out, a lowly chef rising to the top or a special food getting created. In director Lasse Hallström's new movie, "The Hundred-Foot Journey" opening today, August 8, he decides to mix a few of these together and winds up with mild results.
A family from India must flee their home country. They find themselves in France and the father of the family decides to buy some property to open a restaurant, the family's previous business. Across the street, a hundred-feet away to be precise, is an upscale French restaurant owned by Madam Mallory (Helen Mirren) who is not to thrilled to have the competition. Before long, war breaks out and caught in-between is the son of the family, Hassan, who could have the makings of one of the great chefs of all time.
"The Hundred-Foot Journey" contains plenty of shots of food, food being made, food metaphors and food philosophy. The added ingredient is the extra plot lines that unfold. At first it appears the movie will be about these two establishments, that could not be more different from one another, having a restaurant war. Then new plots emerge to the point where you no longer are sure what direction the movie is heading next. They even throw in a couple of love stories as well. It is a good idea to not make your movie about one thing, but as the saying goes, "Too many cooks spoil the broth." The movie is based on a best-selling book, and some books are too difficult to translate to screen. The movie reaches a point to where you start to lose interest.
It should be no surprise that Helen Mirren is great. She always is and gets to play the kind of villain in this piece. Madam Mallory can be very cold and rude in the movie, but at the same time is driven by her passion for food preparation and does not turn a blind eye to the evils in the world. Manish Dayal, who plays Hassan holds his own well, but the standout in this movie is Charlotte Le Bon who plays Marguerite, a sous-chef in Madam Mallory's kitchen. This Canadian actress lights up the screen whenever she appears and is a talent Hollywood should stand up and take notice about.
Lasse Hallström is a very talented director. He was the director of "Chocolat" which was a great picture. "The Hundred-Foot Journey" is delightful in parts, but just goes a little too long for a lasting good taste. It is Rated PG for thematic elements, some violence, language and brief sensuality.