Aug 23, 2014

Review: The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014)

Lasse Hallström is a very known quantity. For the most part, he makes feel-good dramas with some relatively good cinematography. There's nothing inherently wrong with that either. On the surface though, it seems like Hallström is treading on ground he's already more than covered with The Hundred-Foot Journey. Remember Chocolat? It's a film about a woman arriving in a conservative French village with her daughter, trying to win them over with chocolate. I guess that's an easy way to sum it up. 

With The Hundred-Foot Journey, it's about a Indian family opening an Indian restaurant right across the street from a traditional French restaurant run by Mme. Mallory who will do anything to keep her restaurant on top. The family also have to win over the townsfolk who have never seen anything like the cuisine they serve before. These are only really surface comparisons and that's a bit unfair I guess.


Genre: drama, romance
Directed by: Lasse Hallström
Produced by: Juliet Blake, Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, etc.
Written by: Steven Knight
Music by: A.R. Rahman
Running time: 122 minutes
Production company: Amblin Entertainment, DreamWorks Studios, Harpo Films, etc.
Distributed by: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Constantin Film, Touchstone Pictures, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $22,000,000
Box office: $88,880,821 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, Charlotte Le Bon, Amit Shah, Farzana Dua Elahe, Dillon Mitra, Aria Pandya, Michel Blanc, Clément Sibony, Vincent Elbaz, Juhi Chawla, Alban Aumard, Shuna Lemoine, Antoine Blanquefort, Malcolm Granath, Abhijit Buddhisagar, Rohan Chand




Papa (Om Puri) and his family are chased out of Mumbai, India due to politics. Their restaurant is destroyed and sadly, Papa's wife is killed in the frenzy. He decides to leave the country with his children and they end up stopping in a small town in France due to their vehicle's malfunctioning brakes. Right across from an upscale French restaurant, a building which used to be a restaurant is for sale which Papa decides to buy. With his skilled but unclassically taught son Hassan (Manish Dayal) as chef, Papa has to wage war with Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren), the the proprietor of the restaurant only one hundred feet away.


The storyline of The Hundred-Foot Journey holds no surprises but by the end of it that didn't really matter to me. This is Hallström comfort food that just manages to avoid being manipulative. The beginning of the movie is probably the movie's weakest point, but it finds a way to get better and more engaging as time goes on. No the ending isn't surprising but it's undeniably satisfying.

Solid performances from Helen Mirren and Om Puri keep things interesting. Mirren's French accent sounds good to my ears and neither her nor Puri enter into exploitative territory in regards to their culture. That can probably be due to Steven Knight's script which does a good job at fairly representing both French and Indian cultures. Puri makes a great patriarch and is especially adept at injecting humour when it's needed without going overboard.

Food is a big part of TH-FJ and wow does it look beautiful. You can't deny that you want to taste everything that's shown on the screen, French or Indian. Clearly, food porn would be an easy thing for Lasse to do but he also lucks out from a pretty good script and good leads. There's also a very nice score from A.R. Rahman that's rich and nicely varied.

The romance aspect of The Hundred-Foot Journey never feels like it's overdone and the cuteness factor of  Manish Dayal and Charlotte Le Bon is undeniable. All in all, this is an easy movie to digest. Even if it does tread on similar territory as Chocolat, I personally think that TH-FJ is the better done film. It comes very close to being manipulative but you just can't help but be satisfied by the end of it. This is not an award winning film and if it were a meal it wouldn't be the kind of meal you see at a Michelin Star restaurant. It's macaroni and cheese and really, who doesn't like macaroni and cheese?



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