Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Starring: Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, Charlotte Le Bon, Amit Shah, Farzana Dua Elahe.
Written by: Steven Knight and (based on the novel) Richard C. Morais.
Running Time: 122 mins
Release date: 5th September 2014
Earlier this year we had Chef, a film that was pretty much food porn. Well now comes The Hundred-Foot Journey, another film that attacks the senses by the very nature of showing us mouth-watering meals, this time of the Indian variety. A gentle, sweet-natured and well intended drama that sadly becomes a little over-baked by the end.
The Kadam family, led by Papa, move to Europe after their family restaurant in India was destroyed by rioters and the family’s mother,dead. Setting up home in a small village in France, Papa finds a new home for their cuisine, opposite a celebrated French restaurant run by the snooty Madame Mallory. Determined to stop their Indian food from smelling, Mallroy stops at nothing to have them closed down, even though in the kitchen is Hassan, a young man taught by their dead mother, who has skills in cooking that Madame Mallroy has never tasted before.
This is a decent enough time-waster from the more-than capable hands of Lasse Hallstrom, who had a similar approach to food with Chocolat. Here it is a much broader canvas but a plot that follows the same lines. Outsiders in a village who have to try to win over the locals, especially one who rules the roost.
Hallstrom’s skill is managing to make everything look almost magical, in a fairy tale-like fashion. So we have picture postcard shots of lush, gorgeous scenery interspersed with a simple story of rising against the odds and succeeding in ways only found in movies. As pleasing as it is on the eye, the main bulk of the film is just as enjoyable, mixing elements of drama with a light dusting of comedy and a touch of romance as well.
However, it does sometimes cross over that line of contrived (car has no brakes but luckily there’s a dirt track and equally lucky is the passer-by just happens to be a sous chef at Madame Mallroy’s AND she has a rope to help tow the family). It also comes across as trying too hard to be quaint and pleasing, which runs badly out of steam by the final act. It would have seemed a better film had they lost the final 20 minutes.
The performances are nice and in keeping with this inoffensive tale. Om Puri as Papa is always good value and needs to make more films than he does, even though he has got into a routine of playing those over-powering father figures. Manish Dayal, as Hassan, is well suited as a man with a lust for knowledge and a skill in the kitchen, while Charlotte Le Bon as Marguerite, the girl who befriends Hassan, is very pleasing, with the nicest, most hypnotic eyes this side of Audrey Tautou.
While Helen Mirren presides over the film with that air of confidence and supremacy we have come to expect from the dame of modern cinema, her French accent does become a little distracting and you find yourself wondering why they didn’t plump for Juliette Binoche or Isabelle Huppert to play the stubborn Madame Mallroy.
This is a perfectly acceptable, family friendly tale that offends no one and could easily be viewed on a Sunday afternoon after a hearty dinner (please eat before entering the cinema, you might regret it afterwards). Alas with an ending that loses its direction and unfortunately doesn’t have enough to make it completely memorable, The Hundred-Foot Journey is fine, lovingly photographed entertainment while your watching but nothing much else.