The Hundred Foot Journey, based on the book by Richard C. Morais is a piece of work that brings together three of my favourite indulgences: Books, Movies and Food. As someone who reads avidly, loves the silver screen and appreciates the creative mastery of turning mundane ingredients into works of art, The Hundred Foot Journey was an absolute delight to watch.
The plot revolves around the struggle of a restaurant owning Indian family to find their place in a new world, after tragedy and a comedy of errors leads them to Lumière, France. India’s veteran actor Om Puri is the indefatigable but comedic Papa – head of the family, who stubbornly decides that France, despite having its world renown cuisine, and culturally conservative Lumière with its Michelin Star restaurant at that, would be the ideal location for a startup Indian restaurant. Papa’s faith hinges on his son Hassan, ably played by Manish Dayal. Hassan is the chef who inherited his mother’s flair for cooking and tries to straddle the line between pragmatism and passion. Hassan meets Charlotte Le Bon’s, Marguerite whose beauty and zeal for culinary perfection both attracts and challenges him. Last but certainly not least is Madame Mallory – brilliantly portrayed by Helen Mirren, the snobbish proprietress of the prestigious restaurant that employs Maguerite, and is located one hundred feet opposite Papa’s Indian restaurant.
Produced by Oprah Winfery and Steven Spielberg, and directed by Lasse Hallstrom, the movie thinly veils its Oscar ambitions. The cinematography panoramically captures the lush vistas of Midi Pyrenees, which serves as the backdrop for the scenes of understated romance, poignant drama and slapstick comedy that the film generously offers. A.R. Rahman of Slumdog Millionaire fame gives the viewer an enjoyable score which like a good condiment, flavours the movie without overwhelming it. The acting by the main characters is largely compelling, particularly the interactions between Om Puri and Helen Mirren who ground the story’s perfectly balanced recipe of comedy and drama. Dayal’s Hassan and Le Bon’s Maguerite share a palpable chemistry that I initially thought would be forced.
Many reviewers have opined that the plot (which remains largely faithful to the book) is somewhat predictable and reminiscent of the movie Chocolat. This is true; however, its ability to present a palatable gumbo of Bollywood and Hollywood cultures, while leaving the viewer with a unique, yet unifying take home story makes it worth watching. Gumbo is ubiquitous (at least in the United States), but it is always worth eating.
The Hundred Foot Journey came out on August 8th, 2014 and is still showing in theatres.
written by Kingsley Ewetuya