The culinary comedy-drama "The Hundred-Foot Journey" is a good example, to borrow a foodie analogy, of a good chef turning mundane ingredients into a tasty dish.
This gentle adaptation of Richard C. Morais’ novel centers on the Kadam family, who flees political turmoil in India for a quieter life in Europe. After some time in England, the family — led by its stubborn patriarch (played by the great Indian actor Om Puri) — moves to the continent, landing in a small town in Provence. The father finds a promising spot to open an Indian eatery, one that happens to be across the street from the town’s fine French restaurant.
‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’
Screen legends Helen Mirren and Om Puri bring ample charm to this charming story of feuding restaurant owners.
Where » Theaters everywhere.
When » Opens Friday, Aug. 8.
Rating » PG for thematic elements, some violence, language and brief sensuality.
Running time » 122 minutes.
Thus begins a battle of wills between Mr. Kadam and the French restaurant’s imperious owner, Madame Mallory, whose haughty perfectionism is portrayed beautifully by Dame Helen Mirren. Meanwhile, Mr. Kadam’s son Hassan (Manish Dayal), who inherited the cooking skills of his late mother (Juhi Chawla), bonds with one of Madame’s sous chefs, Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), over their shared interest in food.
Hassan is eager to learn the techniques of traditional French cuisine and meld them to his Indian sensibilities, symbolized by the case of secret spices he received from his mother. But while other chefs see him as a foreign interloper, Madame Mallory recognizes his culinary gifts.
Screenwriter Steven Knight ("Locke") weaves between the story’s cross-cultural clash and Morais’ foodie fascination. He even manages to create a smooth scene out of the clunky exposition about how the Michelin guide awards star ratings to restaurants.
Director Lasse Hallström ("Chocolat," "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen") relies on the food to carry the story, as he creates luxurious cooking scenes that will satisfy any Food Network junkie. He even uses food for sly humor, depicting overwrought modern "gastronomy" trends in an ultramodern Paris restaurant.
The storyline of "The Hundred-Foot Journey" moves through its predictable paces, as when Mr. Kadam and Madame Mallory slowly move from animosity to respect. That’s why it’s good to have seasoned pros like Mirren and Puri, who can take such pedestrian fare and give it a bit of spice.
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