A Pretty, Romantic, but Less Satisfying “100-Foot Journey”
By Skip Sheffield
“The 100-Foot Journey” is the third food-oriented movie that has opened in our area in the past two months. Despite high hopes and an endorsement by producers Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey, I found it the least satisfying.
“Journey” stars the great British actress Helen Mirren as Madame Mallory, the snooty owner-chef of a one Michelin star French restaurant in the south of France.
Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal) and his family have fled their native Mumbai, India when Papa (Om Puri) decides maybe life in France could be more productive.
Why France? Well, this is a gastronomic fairy tale, based on Richard C. Marais’s 2010 novel, and rich, refined French cuisine is about as far removed from pungent, spicy Indian as possible.
Noted Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom (“Chocolat”) makes the best of food imagery in the kitchen and in the market, but he tends to linger too long in a movie that goes for more than two hours.
Hassan’s family leases a failed restaurant right across the street, 100 feet, from Madame Mallory’s Le Saule Pleurer. Madam Mallory is a widow and quite frankly prejudiced against brown-skinned people she considers inferiors.
However there is nothing inferior about Hassan’s cooking talent. This is first recognized by Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), Madame Mallory’s pretty sous chef. Not only does Marguerite admire Hassan’s instinctive way with spices, she finds the handsome young man quite attractive.
A parallel attraction of opposites happens between adversaries Madam Mallory and craggy, proud Papa.
So it’s a small world after all. “The 100-Foot Journey” is as much a romance as it is a fable of cultural blending. It is lovely to behold but rather too long and not quite satisfying.