Ask any movie critic, and they’ll tell you their two least favorite months are January and August. January, because it’s the post-Oscars dumping ground, and August, because it’s where all the summer movie also-rans go to die.
So much for that theory.
Maybe this god-awful cinematic summer has just worn me down, but in my mind, August has given us arguably the best movie of the past few months (Guardians of the Galaxy) along with some surprisingly better-than-average fare, including Into the Storm and If I Stay.
Add to that list Lasse Hallstrom’s The Hundred-Foot Journey.
Far more interesting that its food porn counterpart Eat, Pay, Love, but not quite the delicacy that 1996’s Big Night was, it is, nonetheless a pleasant trip. Set in the south of France (you had me at “hello”), Journey traces the rivalry between the snooty Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren), who owns the local one-star Michelin joint, and a family of Indian immigrants who decide to open their own little tandoori hut right across the road.
Once we get past some inexplicable moments of petty childishness, Journey settles into a nice rhythm. (A Michelin star winner would really buy up all the salmon from the local market just to sabotage the competition? Yeah, don’t think so.) Mirren is delightful (has she ever not been?), particularly as she’s butting heads with Om Puri as the rival patriarch. But the sweetest moments come as his son Hassan (Manish Dayal) starts falling for Mallory’s sous chef Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon).
Hallstrom (who directed 2011's brilliant Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) has a way with making even the most mundane things look magical and ethereal. I don’t even like olives, and damned if I wasn’t craving one at several points during Journey.
Pretty food shots and sweeping, sun-dappled panoramas of the French countryside can only take you so far, though, so fortunately the cast steps up to keep the film afloat-- even overcoming the script which occasionally loses steam (and direction) before finding its way again at the end.
No, it’s not a cordon bleu experience (despite Spielberg and Oprah serving as executive producers), but The Hundred Foot Journey goes down perfectly well—nice flavor and very little aftertaste.
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