Movie Review - The Hundred-Foot Journey

Manish Dayal plays an Indian chef on the rise
in "The Hundred-Foot Journey"
This year has had several films that have put men from India in the forefront of the big screen. The first was The Lunchbox, an independent film that was released in the winter that many people hoped would be India's official submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The second was Million Dollar Arm, a Disney production released in the spring, and like that studio film, this piece is an adaptation of a book. The Hundred-Foot Journey is based on the novel by Richard C. Morais. Similar to The Lunchbox, food, particularly eating and savoring Indian cuisine, is important, but this film puts slightly more importance on the preparation of that cuisine, as it centers on a young, handsome Indian chef.

Yes, Manish Dayal plays Hassan, the young, handsome, Indian chef, and despite being an absolutely beautiful boy, he's also gifted and innovative in the kitchen. His father shepherds him and his brothers and sisters from Mumbai to France where he opens a restaurant across the road, literally a hundred feet from a highly-rated, French cuisine establishment. Hassan of course starts a romance with the gorgeous, female sous chef who works at the restaurant across the road named Marguerite, played by Charlotte Le Bon.

This film is a fantasy, representing a wish fulfillment of sorts. In terms of immigration and war in the Middle East, this movie is totally the way we want the world to go. Issues like assimilation, bigotry, pride and one-upmanship or even revenge are all settled in the most peaceful way possible. Even a possible Romeo and Juliet scenario is handled supremely less tragically.

It's also food porn of the lovely kind. So much of the cinematography focuses on stoves, frying pans and dinner plates, but the faces of people eating is also a focus. There's no sex, but like PG sex scenes, the orgasmic reactions are all in the look on people's faces when they take the bites into their meals.

What propels it forward is the relationship and chemistry between Helen Mirren who plays Madame Mallory, the owner of the French restaurant, and Om Puri who plays Papa, the owner of the Indian restaurant. Their passion and their rivalry are the stuff of great comedy. Both actors embrace and really play it up.

One particularly funny joke has Papa mock Madame Mallory who frequently looks down from her 2nd or 3rd story window. He mocks her calling her a queen, or other words arrogant or smug or snotty, which she is. It's obviously though a nod to Mirren's Oscar-winning role as Elizabeth in The Queen (2006).

Director Lasse Hallström crafts this whole piece as a confection, much in the same way as his previous works like Chocolat (2000) and Casanova (2005). The screenplay by Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things and Eastern Promises) is probably faithful to the book, which includes how the ending plays out, particularly the final fifteen minutes or so. That ending centers on Hassan in Paris. Seeing him there certainly ups his sex appeal considerably, but it's a section that felt superfluous and too sentimental.

Five Stars out of Five
Rated PG for thematic elements, some violence, language and brief sensuality.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 2 mins.


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