The Hundred-Foot Journey

The Hundred-Foot Journey

The Hundred-Foot Journey



Rating

Directed by Lasse Hallström. Starring Helen Mirren, Manish Dayal, Om Puri, Charlotte Lebon, Amit Shah, Farzana Dua Elahe, Dillon Mitra, Aria Pandya, Michel Blanc, Clément Sibony, Vincent Elbaz, Juhi Chawla, Rohan Chand, Saachi Parekh, Shaunak Parekh. Written by Steven Knight, from the novel by Richard C. Morais.

A pleasant, easygoing adaptation of the Richard C. Morais novel, The Hundred-Foot Journey is full of enough mouth-watering scenes of food preparation to fill a minor craving, but lacks the dramatic substance to satisfy greater appetites. 

Still, the food looks delicious, and Helen Mirren is tremendous in a supporting role as Madame Mallory, a snobbish French restaurateur who is dismayed to see a family of Indian immigrants set up shop across the street from her Michelin Star-winning restaurant outside of a tiny French village. 

Her brief feud with the family’s patriarch (played by Om Puri) is just about all the dramatic spark that The Hundred-Foot Journey can afford, as the two battle for ingredients at the local famer’s market, and file zoning and noise complaints with the bewildered small-town mayor (Michel Blanc).

The film comes to life whenever the two of them are onscreen, and Mirren is genuinely affecting in her role; one would argue that her character’s hundred-foot journey carries far more weight than the other hundred-foot journey that takes up the bulk of the screen time (the titular journey refers to the distance between Mallory’s restaurant and the new curry house across the street). 

Unfortunately, the bulk of the story takes Mirren and Puri out of the spotlight, as we follow son Hassan (Manish Dayal), who, uh, well… He’s the star chef at his father’s restaurant with a passion for food that he has inherited from his deceased mother. He wants to become better, learn about international cuisine, and maybe even win a Michelin star himself. 

Good for him, I thought. But not so good for the other characters in the film: Mallory is wary of the competition, Hassan’s father is wary of losing his son and star chef, and a love interest played by Charlotte Le Bon also happens to be a chef – she, of course, becomes jealous. Lacking any real drama, the final act of the film has to artificially manufacture it.

After that extended finale drags the film out to an unreasonable 2+ hours, I was wondering why this material was given such a first-rate treatment – and it is beautifully shot (by Linus Sandgren, American Hustle) and scored (A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire) and more-than-competently put together by director Lasse Hallström. They even got Steven Knight, who wrote and directed the brilliant Locke, to pen the awkwardly-structured adaptation. 

Then I saw Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg listed as the film’s producers, and it made sense why this minor trifle was getting the star treatment.

Novels don’t always transition well to the big screen – aren’t readers always complaining about the movie not being as good as the book? – but that hasn’t stopped Hallström from making an entire career out of adapting popular novels. He scored big with My Life as a Dog, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, and The Cider House Rules, but other works have left viewers – and fans of the original works – unsatisfied. 

I think The Hundred-Foot Journey, however, is probably a good-enough transition of the source material to the big screen. This is as pleasant and inoffensive as mainstream fare gets, and while there’s little to get really excited about, there’s little to really turn you off, either. Just don’t see it on an empty stomach.


Jason Pirodsky

Hailing from Syracuse, New York, Jason Pirodsky made his way to Prague via Miami and has stuck around, for better and worse, since 2004. A member of the Online Film Critics Society (www.ofcs.org), some of his favorite movies include O Lucky Man!, El Topo, Berlin Alexanderplatz, and Hellzapoppin'. Follow him on Twitter for some (slightly) more concise reviews.

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