It’s a feel-good movie about an Indian family who moves to a town in France to open a restaurant. Across the street is a Michelin-starred French eatery run with an iron fist by Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren). Cultures and personalities clash, but soon Hassan Kadam’s (Manish Dayal) talent in the kitchen leads him on a journey. First he crosses the hundred feet between his father’s (Om Puri) restaurant to Madame Mallory’s kitchen, then to Paris and ultimately to his real passion.
The last time director Lasse Hallström went all Food Network on us the result was the 2000 bonbon “Chocolat,” a comic story with a bittersweet edge. He’s revisiting similar ground here, mixing gastroporn, good old-fashioned romance and cross-cultural farce.
The conflicts between restaurateurs Madame Mallory and Mister Kadam, and newbie chefs Hassan and Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), (SPOILER, BUT ONLY IF YOU HAVEN’T EVER SEEN A MOVIE BEFORE), are, of course, going to change from rivalry to romance, that much is obvious from the beginning, but the predictability of the story is tempered by very charming performances from the leads.
Mirren essentially plays two characters. As Madame comes to respect and then like her new neighbors, her ice queen demeanor slowly melts, allowing the actress to subtly reveal layers of character. There’s no neighborly epiphany that changes her mind—although a cowardly racist act sets things in motion. Instead, she rediscovers her various passions and each new revelation is registered on her face and in her body language.
Puri’s stubborn patriarch is mischievous and charming while Dayal and Le Bon (who lives up to her name) are solid romantic leads.
Despite its predictability, “The Hundred-Foot Journey’s” collection of characters keeps things lively and amusing and the food looks so good you’ll wish the movie was in Smell-O-Vision. It’s an enjoyable film about passion; the passion for food, passion for culture but most of all, passion for life.