Being a critic is a pretty sweet gig. You get paid to sit back and pick over the bones of other people’s work. To assess, scrutinize and mock the efforts of those who are considerably more talented than yourself.
Lasse Hallstrom is one of those directors whose talent seems to inspire and irritate the critics in equal measure. They loved My Life As A Dog but hated Chocolat. They raved about The Cider House Rules but savaged Safe Haven. But here’s the thing: regardless of what any critic says, some films are simply destined to be loved. The Hundred-Foot Journey may well be one of those films.
Uptight French restaurant owner, Helen Mirren, is appalled to discover an Indian restaurant open for business just hundred-feet from her door. However, behind its plywood Taj Mahal façade, Mason Mumbai hides a unique talent in the form of Indian wunderkind Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal). Both Om Puri and Ms Mirren are fabulous as the gloriously grouchy heads of the respective restaurants. While the obligatory subplot sees Manish Dayal wooing doe-eyed sous chef Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), accompanied by some foodie foreplay.
The Hundred-Foot Journey a light and frothy tale, in which outrageous French accents (kudos Madame Mirren) and the breathtaking scenery of the Midi-Pyrénées compete for your attention. Compared to the likes of Tampopo or Babette’s Feast the story may be light on drama, but the visual buffet still offers up plenty for fans of food porn to get their teeth into.
We Brits may wonder why on earth anyone would actually object to a new Indian restaurant opening in our village – but beneath the rom-com roux, The Hundred-Foot Journey also offers up a more serious message, deftly addressing issues of racism and cultural snobbery, without ever heading into soapbox territory. It may be trite to suggest that the secret to living in peace with our neighbours is as simple as learning to appreciate their beef bourguignon or Tandoori chicken, but it’s probably a good place to start.
This gentle adaptation of Richard C Morais’ 2010 novel is a charming comfort food of a film that will leave you with a serious hankering for mom’s home cooking.