The Hundred-Foot Journey is based on the novel by Richard C. Morais. It tells the story of the combative relationship between an Indian family, headed by ‘Papa’ (Om Puri), who opens a traditional Indian restaurant called “La Maison Mumbai” in a rural French village directly opposite the Michelin 1-star restaurant run by the fanatically focused Madame Mallory. Given the proximity of the two establishments – and ignoring the fact that the “100 feet” should be “30.42 metres” – conflict on both a commercial, class and racial basis is inevitable.
Against the odds (the French, after all, are not famous for liking curries) the new business is successful thanks largely to the culinary talents of Papa’s prodigal son Hassan (Manish Dayal). Love interest for Hassan appears in the form of Marguerite (the charming Charlotte Le Bon); one of Madame Mallory’s sous chefs.
Will the Indian restaurant survive? Will the icy Madame Mallory thaw? Will Hassan and the recently widowed ‘Papa’ find love and happiness? Will Madame Mallory gain the long sought after second Michelin star?
This is a perfectly pleasant film, which will probably be loved by older cinema-goers whose complaint is “they don’t make them like that anymore”. Well they do, and this is it. And there’s nothing wrong with that. If you enjoyed “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, then I predict that you will also enjoy this film. A gentle tale, gently told, with co-producers including Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey.
Most of the acting is good, with Puri and Mirran both playing off against each other well. Puri has a long and distinguished career in Indian cinema dating back to the mid-70’s, but has had a few parts in western films including “Charlie Wilson’s War” and “West is West”. Mirran plays haughty and aloof very well.
The music score from A.H. Rahman is atmospheric and fitting and a particular strength of the film is the cinematography of the French countryside by Linus Sandgren (“American Hustle”) which is lush and seductive.
But I have two main criticisms of the picture.
Firstly, the screenplay by Steven Knight is so linear you could make a spirit level from it. I haven’t read the novel to see if this is true to the book, but – aside from a traumatic event in the opening minutes – there is nothing surprising to be found in the story. This is not meant to be a spoiler, but everything you expect to happen… does!
Secondly, and a much more irritating failure, is in the use of language in the film. The majority of the speech is in English throughout, with Helen Mirran – who I understand speaks pretty good French – adopting a Franglaise accent. I heard an interview with her recently where she confessed to wanting to speak the film in French and use subtitles, but this was rejected by the studios on the grounds that ‘Americans don’t like sub-titled films’. (If true, this seems highly disparaging towards the intelligence of the sort of US filmgoers that would go to see this type of film). In my opinion if all the french scenes had been in french and the hindi scenes in hindi, with a common language of English used for the cross-culture communications, the film would have been so much more convincing. As it was, the conflict generated one of the most ridiculous lines of dialogue in a 2014 film so far: Madame Mallory chastising her head chef for reciting the words of ‘La Marseillaise’ in french in front of her 100% french employees – “Now again, in English, so we can all understand”!
Directed by Lasse Hallström (“Chocolat”, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”) this is a pleasant, un-challenging and stress-relieving way to spend two hours in the cinema. However, make sure you go in well fed else you will get very very hungry!
Fad Rating: FFF.