“The Hundred-Foot Journey” is a smart, sweet and surprisingly delectable end-of-summer romantic dramedy. Executive Producers Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey clearly understood the vision of director Lasse Hallstrom (whose impressive credits include “The Cider House Rules”, “Chocolat” and “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”) and screenwriter Steven Knight (who’s having a fantastic year with indie gem “Locke” and now this winner). Based on the 2010 novel by Richard C. Moranis, “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is nearly a 4-star experience, with excellent characters, genuine performances, and, with every great dish, a whole lot of love.
Oscar winner Helen Mirren stars as Madame Mallory, the longtime owner of a renowned restaurant in a small town outside of Paris, who has very high standards for her cuisine. So when a not-so-wealthy family from Mumbai decides to move into a vacant building directly across the street (exactly 100 feet away) and open their own, Indian-themed restaurant, Mallory’s temperature immediately rises. Competition erupts amongst the Madame and the Kadam family, including patriarch Papa (Om Puri is delightful) and his aspiring-chef son Hassan (played by Manish Dayal).
But just when you start thinking that you know what’s on this menu, “The Hundred-Foot Journey” evolves from the predictable “restaurant vs. restaurant” set-up into something much more. Relationships form, unexpected opportunities arise, and the script explores some serious subject matter, including the importance of careers, ambition and success. Going in I expected the “young love” relationship between Hassan and a rival chef to take prominence over the Madame Mallory storyline, but Hallstrom does a nice job in balancing each portion with the right amount of care and attention. And unlike with “Julie & Julia”, “Chef” and other recent food-based films, the dishes featured aren’t a major focus in this recipe.
At two hours “The Hundred-Foot Journey” does drag briefly in spots, but otherwise it’s packed with delightful moments. You can’t judge a cookbook by its cover, or a meal simply by its presentation. Experiencing “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is like enjoying a rare, exemplary dish: memorable and completely satisfying.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “The Hundred-Foot Journey” gets a B+.