The Hundred-Foot Journey: Food is Memories
The Hundred-Foot Journey is an absolutely beautiful movie to behold. Set in the south of France, an Indian family opens a restaurant a hundred feet across the street from a well-respected French restaurant. As quirky as the trailer may make it out to be, the story is embellished with melancholy and struggle. Not all of the competition is friendly or good-natured which adds an unexpected element of depth. The Hundred-Foot Journey is the perfect date movie, for afterword, you will be hungry and full of conversation.
Let’s set the scene. Hassan, (Manish Dayal) a young boy and his mother rush through the bustling streets of Mumbai, India, in pursuit of a man with a basket of sea urchins. The man stops at his stand, a boisterous crowd gathered around him. The little boy sneaks up to the front, taking an urchin in his hand, smelling and tasting what it has to offer. The owner sees this and decides to sell to the boy and his mother; it is clear this boy has a gift. Years later, Hassan has grown and we are taken to his family’s successful restaurant. (It is one of those moments you wish smell-o-vision were real!) The winner of an election that had been held that day eats at the restaurant, and what occurs next is horrifying. An angry mob stampedes through the restaurant, setting it on fire, killing the mother and any hope the family had for a happy life in Mumbai. After a year of living in Rotterdam and London, Hassan and his family move to the south of France. From there, the family buys an abandoned restaurant, across the street from Madame Mallory’s (Helen Mirren) esteemed French restaurant. A ‘war’ ensues, and the rivals must learn that their differences, when combined, create something extraordinary.
I went into the film thinking it would be a fun comedy that would leave me hungry afterword. I did not, however, think that it would make me think about and discuss so many important issues. The theme of racism is a strong element in the film. The competition is never really friendly, but it is fun to see the lengths to which the rivals go in order to outsmart each other. However, one chef in Madame Mallory’s kitchen takes the competition too far. Jean-Pierre (Clément Sibony) had been a problem from the start. An obvious racist, Jean-Pierre, accuses Hassan’s family of having, “No sense of culture or tradition,” when in fact, I believe the film beautifully celebrates both cultures. It is difficult to accept that some people can still be so ignorant and afraid of what they do not know. One night, Jean-Pierre sneaks into Maison Mumbai, Hassan’s family’s restaurant, and sets it on fire, much like the rebels at the beginning in India. This is a turning point, however. Madame Mallory knows exactly who is behind the attack, and from this point forward, is more willing to live harmoniously with Hassan and his family.
From a more technical standpoint, the film is stunning. Its use of light enhances the story, bringing it to a whole new level. In the French countryside, the warmth from the light is almost palpable. The entire tone of the film is beautifully set with its golden hues glistening on each scene. However, at one point, the tone changes, and along with it, the light. Hassan receives an opportunity to work in Paris, but the transition is bittersweet. The warmth we felt among friends and family in the country has vanished and been replaced by the cold, dim, barren metal of the city. It is such a different view of Paris than I have ever seen. Paris is the city of lights, the city of love. The enchanting wonder of Paris at night is lost when one has no one with whom to share its beauty. Visually, every scene matched the tone intended.
On another technical note, this film is all about two restaurants, so I would be remiss if I were to overlook the presentation of the food. Excuse me, but #foodporn. It just had to be said. It would take far too long to discuss why every dish made me want to reach into the screen and devour the plate, but I must point out one sequence in particular. During one battle in the restaurant war, a montage of chopping ensues. Each side chops away to the furious beat of the music. Every succulent morsel looked more divine than the next. The care and passion put into the food is just as apparent as the care and passion put into the film.
As careful and passionate as the creators may have been, no project goes without flaw. Until this point, I made no mention of a love story, although the film contains two. That is my first flaw. Two love stories coming out of this one situation seems slightly contrived. I strongly prefer the love story between Madame Mallory and Hassan’s father, whom they only ever refer as Papa (Om Puri). It takes time to ripen, and after they had both lost their significant others, it is wonderful to find that they may love again. It is not that I did not believe the love story between Hassan and Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), another chef in Madame Mallory’s kitchen, but that the two love stories together seems forced. I am disappointed how Hassan and Marguerite seem like Romeo and Juliet, and nothing comes of that. The second issue I have is that Hassan’s journey to Paris did not seem necessary. After a certain point involving the Michelin star (which I will not spoil), the story seemed finished. These are only two small qualms, neither of which are enough to not recommend the film.
The Hundred-Foot Journey is a fun film to see with just about anyone. It is witty, charming and the acting is superb. How could it not be with Queen Helen Mirren at the helm? As upbeat as it may be, at times the story is infused with deeper emotions which only adds to the uniqueness of the film. The Hundred-Foot Journey will have your mind racing, heart thumping and tummy grumbling.
Release Date: August 8, 2014
Run Time 2:02
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The Hundred-Foot Journey IMDB
- The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014) - IMDb
Directed by Lasse Hallström. With Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, Charlotte Le Bon. The Kadam family clashes with Madame Mallory, proprietress of a celebrated French restaurant, after they open their own nearby eatery, until undeniable chemistry
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