Sunday, July 20, 2014

“The Hundred-Foot Journey”– Movie Review



This weekend, my movie class had a bonus screening of “The Hundred-Foot Journey”, starring Helen Mirren and directed by Lasse Hallström


An itinerant Indian family opens a restaurant in France – but when they learn the classical French restaurant across the road is Michelin-starred, will they be able to compete?


The Kadam family own and operate a successful restaurant in Mumbai, India – but when their business burns to the ground, they wind up leaving their homeland to seek a new location for their endeavor.  After trying different nations around Europe, they finally choose – of all places! – France.  Finding a deserted building in a remote spot of a small village, they decide to open Maison Mumbai there – and the talented Hassan, the eldest son in the family, will be their chef.  With little in the way of formal training but immense natural aptitude, Hassan made the family’s previous business click and the family is confident he will do the same here.

What they don’t take into consideration, however, is the fact that directly across the road from their place – a mere 100 feet, in fact – is a famous, Michelin-starred classical French restaurant run by Madame Mallory (Mirren), who not only doesn’t embrace the competition, she also takes an attitude of condescension when considering they are specializing in cuisine native to their home of India.  Quickly, the two businesses engage in an all-out war, not only competing for customers but also competing for ingredients purchased at the local market. 

Eventually, it turns personal when a racist mob sets fire to Maison Mumbai; when Hassan tries to extinguish the blaze, his hands are severely burned, preventing him from cooking.  As he recovers, Mallory becomes more sympathetic to the family’s plight; when she finally tastes a sample of Hassan’s cooking, Mallory is convinced of his gifts and offers him a job at her eatery.  After a while, Hassan’s influence causes Mallory to earn an additional Michelin star for her restaurant.  When word of this gets out, Hassan is lured away by an elite two-star Michelin restaurant in Paris so he can help them earn a third star.  But can Hassan withstand the pressure that accompanies such a hefty responsibility?


Knowing the types of stories that attract noted director Lasse Hallström, it should come as no surprise whatsoever that “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is a film of great sweetness and gentility.  Add to that the fact that this is a Disney production co-produced by Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg, and you walk into the theater pretty much knowing what to expect out of this movie.  That said, I was disappointed in this cliché – filled work that’s immensely predictable and lacking in innovative storytelling.  Although I love Helen Mirren, I did not think this was one of her better efforts; her attempts at a French accent made me want to cringe. 

Another problem I had with “The Hundred-Foot Journey” has to do with the script’s structure.  The movie’s third act tries to cram way too much into the end of the story; in fact, I believe that what was shoe-horned into the final half-hour of  “The Hundred-Foot Journey” could have been an entirely different (and perhaps, much more interesting) motion picture altogether.  For me, the most compelling parts of the tale were rushed through in the last portion of the picture.  Add to this the fact that there are not one but two unrealistic love stories introduced into its telling and it completely loses me. 

Following the screening, the class discussed the movie; despite the fact that everyone pretty much acknowledged all of the clichés in “The Hundred-Foot Journey”, the overwhelming majority really enjoyed the film, so I was once again left in the minority here as far as my own opinion was concerned.  One way I felt somewhat justified was when someone who actually does speak French (I don’t) agreed that Mirren’s accent seemed rather lacking in authenticity.  An area where we probably would agree is that this would likely be a good motion picture for foodies as the shots of the spreads are bordering on so-called “food porn”.        


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