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hundredfoot_journeyTHE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY
Written by Steven Knight
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom
Starring Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal and Charlotte Le Bon

Hassan: To survive here we have to adapt – we need to make use of what is close to us and then we pray to God that it works.

In THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY, Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren), a stern French restauranteur, challenges her chef applicants by commanding them to cook her an omelette. Much like the elements involved with concocting a delectable omelette, the ingredients for a charming crowd pleaser have always remained the same. Throw in an underdog in unfamiliar territory, mix in an independent enchanting girl next door type from a different background, fold in an easy to overcome conflict to the centre, and voila! A frothy, palatable audience pleaser is created. However, much like culinary prodigy Hassan (Manish Dayal) does to his omelette in the film, writer Steven Knight (adapting the novel by Richard C. Morais) adds something different to the stale and oft repeated recipe of a charmer. He not only solves the conflict at the film’s core in the second third of the film but infuses the final third with the romantic subplots noticeably and dispassionately absent during the rest of the film. Thus, the end results are perfectly serviceable but hardly satisfying for the audience.


The film centres on the Kadam family, who flee their native Mumbai following the fiery, tragic loss of their restaurant and matriarch. Exhausted and starving after days of travelling in a rundown van, Papa (Om Puri, a standout as always) eyes a spacious, vacated former restaurant space in the south of France and vows to keep the family afloat by opening another dining establishment. Before you can say curry, the family is running the Maison Mumbai, with the culinary genius son Hassan at its helm. Unfortunately the locale isn’t as idyllic as Papa initially presumed, as the Michelin starred, popular French restaurant, Le Saule Pleureur, is situated literally one hundred feet across the street. Its widowed proprietor Madame Mallory proves to be a unwelcoming bee in Papa’s turban yet its sous chef, the enchanting Margeurite (Charlotte Le Bon, a young Winona Ryder doppleganger in the best possible way), catches Hassan’s eye and educates him on the joys of French cooking. Seduced by the grand potential of melding Indian spices with traditional French cuisine, Hassan slyly capitalizes on Margeurite’s tutelage and propels himself amongst the ranks in Le Saule Pleureur’s kitchen and then amidst Paris’ culinary highbrow elite. While thriving professionally, he yearns for Margeurite as his Papa draws ever closer romantically to Madame Mallory.


On its surface the adapted story may seem eerily akin to director Lasse Hallstrom’s previous outing, SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN. That film was quite literally a fish out of water fairytale, as this one is at its most elemental level. Yet from its sensual food porn to its vivacious score (done here by SLUMDOG’ MILLIONAIRE‘s A.R. Rahman) to its fatalistic depiction of the immigrants’ journey and the unspoken necessity to conform to French culture, THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY is a far closer sibling to Hallstrom’s CHOCOLAT. Perhaps in his next feature Hallstrom can better integrate the fundamentals of a delicious crowd pleaser instead of one where it all just lazily crumbles into a forgettable palette cleanser.

2.5 sheep

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