With ingredients that include an idyllic French countryside, cinematic food porn, and the unforeseen chemistry between British patriarch Helen Mirren and Godfather of Bollywood Om Puri, Lasse Hallstroms’ The Hundred-Foot Journey is a feel good movie that cinema geeks and food aficionados alike will enjoy.
Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal) is a talented chef that moves to Europe with his family following a family tragedy. Led by their overzealous father Papa (Om Puri), the Kadam family decide to open an Indian restaurant to show the French what they’re missing out on. There’s only one problem: Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren), who is the proprietor of an award winning French restaurant exactly a hundred feet away from the Kadams’ restaurant (go figure). A battle of wits ensues between Papa and Madame Mallory that gives new meaning to the term ‘friendly competition’, leaving Hassan to broaden his culinary horizons, with the help of ‘enemy’ sous chef Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon).
The main attraction of this film should be the food, and for all intense and purposes it does play a delightful cameo role, however the chemistry between Mirren and Puri takes the cake. The back and forth between the two was fantastic to watch, and reminded me of the similar powerhouse pairing of Nicholson and Keaton in Something’s Gotta Give. Admittedly I assumed Mirren would be her stellar self, which she of course is, but Puri matches Mirren barb for barb, glare for glare, and it is spectacular to watch and well worth the price of admission.
The one downfall of this film is the overall lack of drama, within the first few minutes you know that everything will turn out okay in the end and everyone will live happily ever after. There is nothing wrong with that of course, but there was no real sense of urgency and without giving too much away, a spanner is thrown in the works about three-quarters through the movie, but has as much effect as a drop in the ocean. Added to this is the feeling that just when you think the movie is going to end, another scene pops up that prolongs the inevitable, and this experience occurred throughout the latter half of the movie so often that it left a sour taste in my mouth.
Admittedly, I may be asking too much of this feel-good flick, but an extra bit of spice once in a while never hurt anyone. I do recommend watching this movie, if not for the array of French and Indian cuisine served up on a cinematic platter, then most definitely for the Chemistry 101 class taught by veterans Mirren and Puri. Although missing a few key ingredients, the film as a whole was enjoyable, and is a must see for anyone that relishes in the feeling of happily ever after.
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