It’s been a summer full of food in film. First Jon Favreau’s Chef and now The Hundred-Foot Journey, and you’ll swear up and down that you’re watching Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern on the Travel Channel. Good food, good-natured rivalry, and family and friends is what this film is about, and on the whole, it’s an enjoyable and feel-good movie that’ll leave you feeling hungry.
In Mumbai, the Kadam family own and operate their own restaurant, constantly filled to the brim with people who are given a taste of Hassan’s (Manish Dayal) food. Taught by his mother the fine art of cooking and spices, Hassan has a natural talent for making food that is rich with taste. When the Kadam family restaurant is burned down by local townspeople unhappy with the new senator, Hassan and his mother seek asylum in London before moving to France, having family there who can help.
But before they can get to their destination, their truck breaks down near a beautiful town in the south of France and are helped by a passing stranger named Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), whom Hassan becomes taken with. Instead of carrying on with their travel, Hassan’s father (Om Puri) finds an abandoned restaurant and is convinced that his family should open it. His children aren’t convinced of the idea, especially since the town of locals has probably never had Indian food. That’s one of the reasons why the patriarch wants to open it to begin with. The only problem is that one of the most popular restaurants in France, run by the upscale, strict, and perfection-seeking Madam Mallory (Helen Mirren), is exactly 100 feet across the street. And so begins the rivalry between the two competing restaurants.
It’s easy to be taken with a film that’s as much about food as it is about the events that happen. And there’s plenty of food in this film. Maybe not as much as in Chef, but the food porn is certainly up there and no less tantalizing. Aside from that the film starts off really well and moves at a brisk pace. Between the Kadam family moving from India to France, time isn’t wasted in getting them settled into their new restaurant and the battle for customers between them and Madam Mallory.
At its heart, the film is very feel-good and cute. It’s focused a lot on the character of Hassan, his struggles from being considered just a cook to being considered a chef, and the mini rivalry he has with Marguerite. The true heart and soul of the movie is the pairing of Om Puri and Helen Mirren in their onscreen rivalry and banter. They truly ensconce the movie with their humor, tirades, and fun rivalry that after the film moves away from that, it doesn’t feel quite as whole anymore. The two of them are kind of like the strings holding the film together, because without them, the film would put too much of its focus on its younger cast, which, save for two of them, are underutilized.
The Hundred-Foot Journey, which is based on the book by Richard C. Morais, is very family friendly, cute, and enjoyable. Will many people watch it, who knows? But its sense of humor and good-natured rivalry makes it an easy watch. The first act is more fast-paced and has a lot more going for it in terms of the characters and events, whereas the second act struggles a bit to pick up the pace it set for itself previously. It also loses some of its focus here and there, but it at least doesn’t use its 2 hour runtime to make it solely about the rivalry between the two restaurants, which would have gotten boring immediately. If you’re a fan of the book, you might want to give this a watch, if only to see how it compares.