by Sarah Woloski and George Gensler
THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY is, essentially, two stories put together in one movie. Not two concurrently running stories – there is a very distinct point at which the first story ends and the second begins. Food, music, beautiful scenery, and wonderful characters drive the movie(s), which is a roundabout way of saying young children may not appreciate this, unless they have a special affinity for one or more of these aspects of the movie. DON’T see THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY on an empty stomach! Like CHOCOLAT, THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY is a love-song to food. In this case, both traditional Indian Food and French Cuisine. An odd pair, but they combine deliciously in this movie to make your mouth and eyes water. Continue reading for our full spoiler-free THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY review.
The story begins at the Dutch border with our narrator, Hassan Kadam (played by Manish Dayal), an Indian “cook,” who is also the main character. His conversation with the border agent brings us up to date on his story, giving us the reason for his family’s appearance in Europe. We then move along with the Kadams as they search for a place to settle and then as they struggle for acceptance in the French countryside. The second story traces the path of Kadam’s culinary career. The movie is about food and takes place in France, so, of course, Michelin has a supporting role, especially in the second half.
The Kadam family clashes with Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren), proprietress of a celebrated French restaurant, after they open their own nearby eatery, until undeniable chemistry causes the Madame to take gifted young chef Hassan under her wing.
On the whole, THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY is a very heartfelt movie. The scenery (a gorgeous village in the south of France), food and cast were all beautiful to watch. As with most Lasse Hellstrom movies, it is visually stunning. The food prep, completed dishes, wonderful landscapes, and frame composition are masterfully presented. It’s almost like watching a series of paintings cross the screen. The characters are charming, the acting is impressive, but even there, something was off. The story drove the interactions more than the chemistry between the characters, except in the case of the Kadam family. They really did seem like a family, down to the younger siblings. The music was excellent and matched the story very well, in tone (I’m not sure about the lyrics). Manish Dayal, Om Puri (Papa Kadam) and Helen Mirren stood out for their expressiveness, not needing dialogue to convey the emotion of a scene. You could drown in Hassan’s (Manish Dayal) soulful, deep brown eyes. They pulled you into his soul and the heart of the movie.
Even though this was a drama, there were plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, brought on mostly by the rivalry between the uppity French proprietess, Madame Malory (Helen Miren), and Papa (Om Puri).
Watching THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY was enjoyable, but, unlike the patrons of the film’s various restaurants, one left unsatisfied. As beautiful as it was, there was something missing. The titular event seemed contrived and the ending was abrupt and not really supported by the movie. A bit confusing, in fact, as to why it ended that way. Character growth, maybe?
THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY is also a bit too long. There is a point at the end of the second act where the movie deflates a bit and it almost feels as if you are seeing a second film attached to the good one you were watching. However, the director needed to show you the first part of the story in India so that you could really grasp where the characters came from, and the journey to where they ended up. Or perhaps that’s where I started to get REALLY hungry…
Ultimately, I’m not sure why this novel was made into a movie, a miniseries format would have suited it better. As mentioned above, younger children may not enjoy THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY, the story lines are mature and probably better understood by teens and adults.
Special note for New York City readers/viewers – La Boite en Bois restaurant on the Upper West Side will be offering the Beouf Bourguinon a la Hassan from the movie. Go soon, though, there are no details as to how long the dish will be available.
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