Wednesday, 13 August 2014
FILM REVIEW: THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY
Walt Disney Studios Films
Food, glorious food. Cinema is no stranger to the culinary arts and long before MasterChef -- and social media -- made food porn a phenom, food has been lovingly, and lustily captured on film. Tampopo, Babette's Feast, Like Water For Chocolate, Eat Drink Man Woman, and even this year's Chef have all boasted menus as enticing and memorable as the characters and stories themselves.
Lasse Hallstrom, no stranger to food films (see 2000's Chocolat), directs The Hundred-Foot Journey, an adaptation by Steven Knight of the Robert C. Morais bestseller. Best described as a fairy tale, it tells the story of the Kadam family, restaurateurs in Mumbai who, following a personal tragedy, uproot to Europe and quite by accident -- literally -- decide to open an Indian restaurant in the south of France.
As fate or luck (or mere story contrivance) would have it, the Kadams' new kitchen is directly opposite the one-hat Michelin restaurant operated by Madame Mallory. As played by Helen Mirren, she's an imperious woman who objects as much to another restaurant opening on her doorstep (the two venues are a hundred feet apart, separated by a road) as she is to these loud, colourful foreigners bringing down the tone of the neighbourhood.
Madame Mallory and Papa Kadam (veteran Indian actor, Om Puri) immediately lock horns but Hassan (Manish Dayal), the natural chef of the family (there are four other siblings), is determined to make a go of the new restaurant as well as win the Madame over with his culinary skills, not to mention the heart of her sous chef, Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon).
The French locales are idyllic and the food is appetite-inducing. And while Mirren is a solid presence, it is the charming and wily Puri who steals their scenes together. American Dayal also makes for a handsome if a little wet protagonist but there's nothing remotely challenging or, indeed, original about The Hundred-Foot Journey. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It's the movie equivalent of comfort food, more a French pastry than a spicy Indian dish and there's nothing wrong with that if that's what you're in the mood for.