Entertainment LIFESTYLE  >  Movie Review of the Week: “The Hundred-Foot Journey”

Movie Review of the Week: “The Hundred-Foot Journey”

Movie Review of the Week: “The Hundred-Foot Journey”
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BY ALISON BAILES

2014 has been the year of the foodie movie. Jon Favreau found his bliss in a taco truck in “Chef”. Jean Reno experimented with molecular gastronomy in “Le Chef” and Vicenta N’Dongo wowed her diners (if not the audience) in the little-seen “Tasting Menu”.

If you’re not stuffed to the gills with cinematic cuisine … make room on your plate for one more course of food porn and mealy metaphors with Helen Mirren and Om Puri in “The Hundred-Foot Journey”, directed by the king of “Chocolat” himself, Lasse Hallstrom.  Hallstrom is quite the master of tasteful lighting, exquisite settings and safe sentimentalism. Those qualities stand him in good stead in the blandly satisfying “Journey” which follows the cookie-cutter recipe of textbook Hollywood romance without any deviation for spice or ingenuity.

Adapted from a book by Richard C. Morais and with the heady imprimatur of producers Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey (at the screening I attended, they addressed the audience in a mini-film intro not unlike the banter of award show presenters), “Journey” smells of mid-summer counter-programming and female quadrant marketing. This is a film shamelessly made for women, specifically the kind of women who flocked to see “Under the Tuscan Sun”, “Eat, Pray, Love” and the afore-mentioned “Chocolat”. (There’s even a storefront in the quaint town square called “Chocolaterie”. Coincidence? I think not.)

There are two stories at work here. An Indian family headed by Papa Kadam (Puri) relocates to Southern France, choosing unwisely to open a restaurant just feet away from the resident one Michelin star, fancy white-table-clothed “Saule Pleureur”, owned and managed with impeccable fussiness by Madame Mallory (Mirren) who doesn’t take kindly to competition. War is waged between the snobby Mme. and the down-home Papa. Meanwhile, Hassan (Manish Dayal), Papa’s son and the cook at “Maison Mumbai” dreams of becoming a true French chef while he isn’t mooning over cutie sous-chef Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon) who pedals around the village on a vintage bicycle clad in a fetching array of stylish retro dresses. Obstacles to the requisite happy ending include town racists who resent the Kadam’s presence, and Hassan’s own drive to succeed which culminates in him being hired at a fancy Parisian restaurant where he starts to lose his soul.

Mirren, who is truly a delight, can even sell a phony French accent and Mme’s sniffy snobbery provides much of the amusement. Puri is an earthy antagonist but their relationship remains somewhat at a remove as Hallstrom prefers to languish over the beautiful Marguerite and her earnest suitor. The script (by Steven Knight) trades in trite analogies such as “sea urchins taste of life” and “food is memories”. If such pithiness whets your appetite, then you’re in for a treat.

It’s all very faux French with picture-postcard shots of the heavenly country village and drooling shots of vegetables in the market and bechamel sauces. No surprises where it all will end up with sunsets, fireworks and convivial dinners al fresco adding to the bonhomie. The experience is akin to dining at a mediocre restaurant, albeit one with a great view among warm friends. And that’s not such a bad thing in the summer movie doldrums.

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