The Hundred-Foot Journey: Movie Review
Cast: Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, Charlotte LeBon
Director: Lasse Halstrom
For a film about an Indian family setting up a restaurant in France, this crowd-pleasing piece certainly served up something rather bland on my palate.
Based on book from 2010 by Richard C Morais, it's the story of the Kadam family, renowned restaurant owners forced to leave their native India when politically motivated riots see their business burned down and their mother killed.
Lead by the stubborn Papa (a genial and gentle Om Puri), they settle in a small French town and decide to open up shop opposite the Michelin starred restaurant run by the haughty harridan Madame Mallory (played with Allo Allo accented Helen Mirren).
As if that conflict wasn't enough, the Kadam family houses a culinary genius in Hassan (Dayal) whose natural tendency for flavour and cooking sparks the interest of one of Mallory's sous chefs Margueritte (Charlotte LeBon) as well as her heart...
The Hundred Foot Journey is a crowd-pleasing sentimental affair that essentially has nothing inherently wrong with it; in fact it is as pleasant as a walk in the French countryside.
Every single character is relatively one-note, and aside from the 4 main characters, is underwritten to the point of them being redundant on the screen. The one moment of potential ugliness which added a frisson of danger to this safe souffle cinematic concoction of saccharine proportions is dispensed as quickly as an under-cooked rack of lamb back to the chef.
Puri and Mirren have a sweet back and forth in their hostility but it never threatens to boil over into anything but the predictable; the gentle humour at the onset of the movie infects the whole dish, and Hassan and Margueritte's flirtation feels natural as it winds its way through the countryside, into the kitchen and into the inevitable problems.
A final third of the film is distinctly unnecessary and the whole movie verges on outstaying its welcome with a dark tea-time of the soul for Hassan a tired, predictable and inexorable narrative necessity that should have been exorcised.
All in all, The Hundred Foot Journey is unashamedly saccharine, crowd-pleasing and one note. It's the kind of film the word "pleasant" was invented for and as it winds its path to its end, it's likely to tick all the boxes and satisfy the more mature end of the audience.
They say every journey begins with a step, then several more - just be wary on this one, as there are no obvious detours in place en route to the conclusion.