The Hundred-Foot Journey is the latest addition to the recent surge of food-related films (see: The Chef, The Trip To Italy, Julie & Julia, etc). This new film is a feel-good one which will no doubt curry favour with many members of the audience. But despite being a pleasant trip, the overall meal could use some extra seasoning in order to create a bigger impact.
The movie is produced by Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey and Juliet Blake and is an adaption of a book by Richard C. Morais. It is directed by Lasse Hallström and stars Helen Mirren (The Queen) and Bollywood stalwart, Om Puri. This group are undoubtedly an excellent pedigree but they manage to make a good, not a great film.
The story follows the Kadam family who are displaced from their native India and their journey to the South of France via England. Their car breaks down in a quaint and small, provincial town (and elements of the plot and setting actually mirror director, Lasse Hallström’s previous film, Chocolat). This leads the family’s stubborn patriarch, Papa (Om Puri) to decide that they’ll stay and open up a restaurant, the Maison Mumbai in an old, rundown building.
Upon opening, what follows is a cultural clash and battle with the other local establishment. Helen Mirren plays Madame Mallory, a prickly and snooty Frenchwoman who owns the elegant, Michelin-starred, Le Saule Pleureur. It’s a classical French restaurant a mere hundred feet away from where our new favourite family wants to open their vibrant, colourful, Bollywood-infused eatery.
The movie is a tad too long and the relationships are all a little too glossy and polished. The two stubborn restaurant owners go from all-out war- i.e. butting heads, sabotaging each others’ restaurants and complaining to the mayor, to friends within a couple of scenes. The story also attempts to be too many things at once, showing a cultural clash, a foodie story, some family fun, a triumph of the underdog like Slumdog Millionaire and a romance. The latter comes courtesy of Papa’s son, the family cook, Hassan (Manish Dayal) and his friendship and subsequent romance with Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon (Yves Saint Laurent)) who is employed as a sous chef at Le Saule Pleureur.
The Hundred-Foot Journey is a light drama full of picturesque scenery, tantalising food shots and good performances by the actors. But a little added drama would’ve worked wonders and saved it all from being too safe. As it stands the film is uncomplicated yet uplifting and shows promise. It is also comforting enough overall, but while it may satiate some people’s appetite for drama, food, romance and comedy, others may be left wanting a little more.
Review score: TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Hundred-Foot Journey opens in cinemas nationally today.