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Review: The Hundred-Foot Journey

August 8, 2014

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The Hundred-Foot Journey Poster

Based on the bestseller by Richard C. Morais, The Hundred-Foot Journey is a total feel good film, and I liked that.  Those who buy a ticket are going to leave feeling happy, just like after an evening spent at a fine restaurant, and the fact that the film left me feeling satisfied is perhaps the greatest recommendation I can give this delectable piece of cinematic comfort food.

Although not quite as fresh as other recent food themed films like Chef and the small Indian gem The Lunchbox, or even director Lasse Hallström’s own Chocolat, The Hundred-Foot Journey is still quite delicious on its own terms.  The film opens today, courtesy of Touchstone Pictures.

When young chef Hassan (Manish Dayal) moves to Southern France with his proudly Indian family, his father (Om Puri) who can’t resist a good deal purchases an abandoned property so that he can open his own restaurant.  The only problem is that they are literally a hundred feet across the street from Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren), who owns a classic French restaurant that has been awarded a coveted Michelin star.

The two cultures inevitably end up clashing, with Madame Mallory and her bigoted kitchen fearing that their culture will be overshadowed, as Hassan tries to inject some much needed spice into their classic recipes.  Hassan and his family just want to share their love of cooking and make a modest living, while Madame Mallory does everything in pursuit of another Michelin star.  But when they start meeting in the middle things really start to heat up in the kitchen, especially between Hassan and beautiful rival chef Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon).

The film is often sentimental and there is rarely any doubt as to where things are going to end up.  But sometimes there’s nothing wrong with that, and there is an inherent sweetness to The Hundred-Foot Journey and the ways the characters come together that feels genuine and can’t be denied.  The film nicely captures both the beauty of the French countryside and the vibrancy of Indian culture, without shying away from the sometimes shockingly nasty ways that these two different cultures clash.

The coming together of cultures is memorably matched by the excellent music of A.R. Rahman, mixing eclectic Indian sounds with classic French music, before bringing them together at the end with a style that is decidedly modern.  The cinematography is appropriately bright and always beautiful to watch, and the entire cast is uniformly solid.  Helen Mirren and Om Puri have some wonderful interactions together, while Manish Dayal and Charlotte Le Bon light up the screen with charming chemistry.

It’s actually refreshing to see a film like this being released by a major studio in the height of the summer blockbuster season, a well intentioned and very enjoyable film that caters to a more mature audience, instead of aiming to be an increasingly lucrative four quadrant hit.  Because of this, The Hundred-Foot Journey should be savoured like a good meal, a lusciously photographed and delightfully entertaining foodie dramedy that left me smiling.

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