Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Hundred Foot Journey: Longer Than You Thought

The Hundred Foot Journey (the new Helen Mirren vehicle) is all about a culture clash - a culture class that revolves around food amidst the stunning surroundings of the French countryside.
In this tale, Hassan Kadam is a culinary newcomer with the gastronomic equivalent of pure perfection. When Hassan and his family, led by Papa, move to a quaint village in the South of France they are fleeing a calamitous past in India and searching for a new life.
Their grand plan involves opening an Indian restaurant in the picturesque countryside.
Sounds quite ridiculous, yes? And Indian restaurant in such a location?
Well, since this is really only a movie, they soldier on nonetheless. And they are undeterred by the fact that only 100 feet opposite stands a Michelin starred classical French eatery owned by an icy proprietress, Madame Mallory (Mirren).
The Kadam family comes to see that they may have bitten off more than they can chew because Madame Mallory seems determined to have their business shut down. As the two eateries and their owners  clash across one hundred feet and food flies, things start to get ugly (oven with a cross-culture romance between Hassan and one of Madame's chefs).
But then, something happens. Hassan's passion and talent for French cuisine begin to intrigue Madame Mallory.
Can the hundred foot barrier be broken? Where will Hassan's talents take him? Can Madame help along the way? And what of Hassan's budding romance with that lovely French mademoiselle?
These are the great issues that percolate like a hot French roast or a strong Indian assam.
This movie is absolutely beautiful to watch. It's dazzling in so many ways. And the young lovers (Manish Dayal and Charlotte Le Bon) are wonderfully easy on the eyes -- so much so that you can't help cheering them on.
And the film has Big Money behind it: Spielberg and Winfrey.
But this is basically a delightful small film hiding inside a big Hollywood production.
And it's hopelessly sentimental.
And it's too long.
And at times it seems obviously contrived.
But Mirren is utterly grand as Madame and Om Puri is her match as Papa.
And there are the vivid colors or India, all that glorious food, the lush French countryside, dashes of Paris and the blissful joy of young love -- not to mention a bit of amour at the other end of the age spectrum.
As a late summer treat, it proves hard to resist even with its flaws.

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