Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director: Lasse Hallström
Cast: Helen Mirren, Manish Dayal, Om Puri, Charlotte Le Bon
Release Date: August 8th, 2014
“You’re a chef. I do not pay you to burn things.” So states Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren) in one of the most pivotal scenes of the new feature The Hundred-Foot Journey. Mallory is the hard-nosed, search tight-lipped and easily-frazzled proprietess of a fancy French restaurant in the new film and she’s clearly shocked and surprised when a recently-relocated Indian family has the gall to open up a family-style restaurant across the street from her beloved business.
Played by Oscar winner Mirren, sildenafil Mallory could’ve easily come off as a standard icy and unlikeable figure. At times, she can be cruel but even at her lowest moments, audiences can still tell that she has a soft spot, even if that spot only exists for the food her restaurant serves on a nightly basis. It sometimes even feels like Mallory is only belligerent and cruel because she believes that that is what her employees in the kitchen need to keep them at the top of their game and only accepting the best ingredients for their customers.
Of course, the Indian family— which suffers a tragedy early on and moves to France because of that— doesn’t believe in the cruelty of a hard day’s work. They simply believe in serving quality food and creating a welcoming atmosphere that customers will enjoy. Led by their stubborn patriarch Papa (Om Puri), the family’s new restaurant is open and inviting, two qualities that Mallory would never want her restaurant to be.
Her restaurant is cold and impersonal and it only wants to welcome in the most illustrious clientele it can find.
A competition inevitably begins between the proprietors of the two restaurants but the comedy itself offers so much more than a simple rivalry between the two establishments. The filmmakers know the story beats they need to hit but they also dwell on the lovely and refreshing scenes that will help get them there. For instance, the building of the Indian restaurant features a brilliantly orchestrated long take that surveys all of the employees and construction workers who are bringing the facility to life. There’s an excitement and an enthusiasm to those early scenes depicting the restaurant’s creation and those qualities extend to the scenes when the restaurant opens and Papa slyly draws in his first set of customers.
There are formulaic moments as the two restaurants start competing on level footing– including a romance between one of Mallory’s employees and one of Papa’s sons– but director Lasse Halllstrom brings such a warmth to all of the characters that the story, despite its flaws, still feels warm. Whether the movie is focusing on the two rivals fighting one another or Mallory’s obsessive desire to earn a second star in a reputed culinary book or Papa’s unrelenting support for his son Hussan’s (Manish Daval) wish to become a chef, the story makes us affectionate for these characters. Even though we may not understand why a second star matters so much to Mallory, we empathize with her and we root for her despite some of her outrageous behavior.
Because both movies featuring mouth-watering creations and beautifully-captured scenes of meals coming to life, The Hundred-Foot Journey will inevitably face comparisons to the comedy Chef, which arrived in theaters earlier this year. Chef is clearly the superior movie but The Hundred-Foot Journey is still a wonderful little treat.
Even if we know where the story is headed, The Hundred-Foot Journey offers up a few lovely surprises and solid performances all around.
Review by: John Hanlon