One of the hottest categories in movies is food porn. You know, those films where the camera caresses food as it might, in other circumstances, caress a nude woman. In The Hundred Foot Journey the focus is mostly on sea urchin, a delicacy we Americans eat mostly in our sushi, where it is called “uni.”
The Hundred Foot Journey is taken by the Kadam family from India. They’ve suffered a tragedy in their restaurant. Led by a determined Papa (Om Puri) to the French countryside where they plan to open a restaurant, Maison Mumbai, they choose a location across the road (a “hundred feet”) from Le Saule Pleurer, a Michelin-starred restaurant owned by the imperious Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren). She doesn’t want Papa and his brood — including his gifted chef son Hassan (Manish Dayal) — anywhere near her establishment. But Hassan has winning ways about him and he begins to win over Madame Mallory and her sous chef Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon).
From the book by Richard C. Morais with a screenplay by Steven Knight, this is a gentle movie as are most of the others by director Lasse Hallström (The Cider House Rules, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Chocolat, among them). So, there are few surprises on the road to the predictable ending. But that’s OK.
Along the way, Madame Mallory takes Hassan under her wing. Of course, Papa and Madame Mallory must co-exist but their conflict is never fully played out. In fact, much in the entire project is kind of soft and underdeveloped. The characters played by Mirren and Puri areare the only one that are complete. It would have been nice to see more of Hassan and Marguerite, for example.
The food in The Hundred Foot Journey looks luscious, the French countryside is beautiful, the characters are interesting and the major performances are very good. But the entire enterprise is akin to a cocktail party where the hors d’oeuvres look great and are tasty. But they don’t satisfy like a full dinner would. This trifle was co-executive produced by Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey. One expects a fuller meal from them.