The Hundred-Foot Journey
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom
The Hundred-Foot Journey is a sweet little treat.
Eat. Pray. Love.
Representing the ultimate in summer movie counter-programming (even with none other than summertime movie maestro Steven Spielberg on board as a co-producer, along with another creative force, Oprah Winfrey), The Hundred-Foot Journey is — and pardon the food puns, but they're bountiful and way too easy — a delicious change of pace. There are no mutants, monsters or super heroes in sight. It's even rated PG. That's right. It's a movie for grown-ups and it's still rated PG.
There's something oddly comfortable and comforting about watching The Hundred-Foot Journey. It's amiable. It's cute. It's romantic. It's human.
Very much in keeping with his light-touch romantic dramedies Chocolat and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Lasse Hallstrom has once again gone to the bookstore, this time working with the same-titled novel by Richard C. Morais, and cooked up an easily-digestible lark that... oh heavens... also provides food for thought.
The Spice of Life
Here's the story in a samosa-sized recap. Following post-election riots and the death of their matriarch, an Indian family packs up all their worldly possessions in Mumbai and moves from place to place while seeking the best location to establish fresh roots.
They're a family of cooks and access to the proper ingredients is critical. That's why living in London, right under Heathrow's flight plan, didn't work out so well (the vegetables there have no soul). Ultimately, their travels take them to the French Alps. And, as fate would have it, their ideal spot — ripe with all sorts of fresh vegetables, oils, butters, and what-not — is directly across the street from a well-established, highly-regarded, influentially-patronized French restaurant.
They are separated by a dirt road and the distance between the two is 100 hundred feet and yet they're worlds apart.
Sighs and eye-rolls be darned. It's a set-up that artfully allows for the exploration of culture clashes, racism and all sorts of gastronomical matters. Throw in some sweet romantic overtures that blossom ever-so-discreetly and the movie turns into a well-balanced meal, albeit one that feels a bit over-stuffed by the time the after-dinner mints are delivered.
Among the best treats to be had in The Hundred-Foot Journey is the chance to watch a couple appealing fresh faces. Manish Dayal (The Sorcerer's Apprentice) and Charlotte Le Bon (Yves Saint Laurent) are both fairly well-established actors, but they benefit from being less familiar. Not yet assimilated into the Marvel movie madness machine, they're both fun to watch and they own their roles. He's Hassan, the Indian family's lead cook, while she's Marguerite, a sous chef working in the French restaurant, run by the very familiar Helen Mirren (The Queen) as Madame Mallory.
Even as it offers up morsels of common sense, such as the need to adjust in order to survive, The Hundred-Foot Journey never feels stale, a fate that befell the postcard-smarts of the chick (not chic) travelogue Eat Pray Love.
It's a pleasant journey as Hassan rises from a down-home Mumbai cook to a celebrity chef in Paris. But even as his star rises in pursuit of those ever-so-elusive Michelin stars, Hassan knows where his heart is where his talents are best served.
Cooking may be an education for all of the senses and food may very well be the stuff memories are made of, but without heart, it's all empty calories. The Hundred-Foot Journey is full of heart.
• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.