Based on the book, The Hundred-Foot Journey is a cute culinary tale starring Helen Mirren and Om Puri as the two restaurateurs who spar in a small French town. Directed by Lasse Hallström (Chocolat, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) the film is a delightful blend of humor and a clashing of cultures. Both Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey loved the book, from which the movie was adapted, so much so that they became producers on the film, along with Juliet Blake. It is easy to see why the two loved the theme so much, it deals with a hopeful protagonist, his offspring and a miserable older widow who owns the only eating establishment in a small town.
The plot deals with the Kadam family who, as the result of a local Indian election gone wrong, lose everything; their restaurant, wife and mother and their home. After immigrating to England, under the Heathrow landing air space, the family declare the country too cold and wet and move to France. Papa Kadam, keeps driving until he finds a place that his deceased wife will like. Once their brakes fail on the old van they have been travelling in, a chance encounter with a local woman, Marguerite, played by Charlotte Le Bon, sets events in motion that will change everyone’s life.
A quick word about Charlotte Le Bon. This actress is the daughter of Canadian actress Brigitte Paquette and apart from resembling a young Winona Ryder, has an effortless ability to flow her emotions while in character. There is something about this young lady that is captivating enough to make her stand out on screen the moment she is in range of the camera.
The same can be said, however, of Manish Dayal, the romantic lead in The Hundred-Foot Journey. Helen Mirren and Om Puri may have a lot of fun sparring in the cute tale of a culinary clash in small town France, but it is Dayal, and Le Bon who capture the eye. Dayal, an American actor from the southern state of South Carolina, is another performer who shines on film. He is slightly reminiscent of Joshua Jackson but with a bit more of a twinkle in his eye. The pairing of him and Charlotte Le Bon as one of the romantic interests in the film was inspired.
Helen Mirren does just what she does best. There is no shortage of acting chops here. Her portrayal of the icily determined restaurant owner who will, seemingly, stop at nothing to get that second Michelin star is, of course, superb. Her battle at Madame Mallory against the new competition across the road, the “hundred-feet” referenced in the film’s, and book’s, title, is funny as it is cruel, at times.
Of course, Hassan tries the olive branch approach to calm things down at first. Later, when Papa Kadam heats up the war with increased effort, the result is quite a good bit of hilarity. Om Puri, who has 256 projects listed on IMDb, is the perfect actor to share screen space with Mirren. These two do a wonderful job of combat and injured pride.
Brit actor Amit Shah gives a brilliant comic performance as Hassan’s brother and Farzana Dua Elahe is delightful as the sister who is grounded in reality and tries to cool down her father’s overenthusiastic approach to everything. This actress, apart from being absolutely stunning, is an excellent performer who should be used much more.
The Hundred-Foot Journey, feels almost like an English film. Crisp and delightful dialogue, although some of the French accents were a little hard to understand and a few subtitles would not have gone amiss for those who did not take the language in high school. The script however hit all the right spots. Helen Mirren and Om Puri were cute as the culinary warriors who fight to win the town. In fact, there were no slackers in terms of performance from anyone in the movie.
This film does not have an incredible amount of depth to it. The premise, of two eateries setting up business across the road in one small French village, may stretch credibility a little, but the the actors make the film an enjoyable experience. Dame Helen Mirren and Om Puri spar amusingly in this cute culinary tale and they bring a lot to this foodie movie. The Hundred-Foot Journey opens August 8 in cinemas across the country. This is a “feel good” film and by the end of credits, one leaves the theatre with a warmth in the heart and a spring in the step.
By Michael Smith
Century Suncoast Cinema