Starring: Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal
Director: Lasse Hallström
Screenplay: Steven Knight
Drama/Romance, Rated: PG
Running Time: 122 minutes
Release Date: August 8, 2014
Hassan: Single, P-PP Emotional, Pro (Classic Lone Hero)
Madam Mallory: Single, N-P Moral, Ant (Enlightened Lone Anti-Villain)
Greg, I do believe that a hundred feet would emit a terrible odor.
Not if it was at the Maison Mumbai where wonderful spices are used. Let’s recap…
The Hundred-Foot Journey begins in Mumbai, India, where a family restaurant is burned to the ground by political protesters. The mother of the family is killed, and the father, known only as Papa (Om Puri), flees with his children to Europe. The family car breaks down near a charming French village, and Papa sees it as an omen that they should open their new Indian restaurant in that town. As fate would have it, the perfect building for their new restaurant is located directly across the street from an excellent French eatery owned by a proud, tough woman named Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren).
It turns out that Papa’s young son Hassan(Manish Dayal) is a natural chef and learned to use spices at his mother’s feet. Papa and Hassan go to the local food market to buy ingredients for their opening night when they learn that Madame Mallory has bought up all their goods. And now the war is on. Meanwhile, Hassan has taken an interest in Madame Mallory’s sues chef Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon). She hesitantly shares the secrets of French cuisine with Hassan who takes to learning these details like a duck to water. And now the stage is set with a competition for the tastebuds of the town and a budding romance.
Greg, The Hundred-Foot Journey is the perfect movie for people who are obsessed with food. Yes, there are two key relationships that unfold in the story, but they unfold around food, for food, and because of food. I will admit, of course, that this movie is far more than a food movie. Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey have joined forces to produce a moral tale about ethnic differences and how they can inflame hostilities but also how these hostilities can be overcome.
The Hundred-Foot Journey isn’t a great movie. Events unfold in a slightly too predictable way, and things wrap up just a tad too nicely at the end. Madame Mallory’s sudden change of heart about her Indian rivals also stretches the bounds of believability. But having said all that, this is a film well worth watching. The performances are all first-rate, and we’re introduced to characters we grow to care about.
You summed it up pretty well, Scott. I had some problems placing this movie in time. The village the story is set in looks like it fell out of the 1940s. It’s not until Hassan makes the big time and moves to Paris that we get the sense that we’re in modern times.
The movie’s message seems to be that bad things happen when cultures clash, but good things happen when we learn to appreciate our common bonds – especially, in this case, a love of food.
The hero of the story is young Hassan who starts out naive and grows to become more adult and worldly. And he plays the part well. He is naive not only in the ways of fine dining, but also in the ways of love. He innocently plays on the affections of the young lady and gains insights into becoming the chef in Madame Mallory’s kitchen.
Madame Mallory is both the villain and the mentor in this story. She starts out as an adversary to both Papa and Hassan. After her main cook sets the Maison Mumbai to fire, she has a change of heart and realizes that she has taken things too far. It’s a different villain pattern than we’ve seen so far this year – that of the villain turned mentor.
You’re exactly right, and that’s probably why the good Madame’s character defies believability. I suppose I should shed my cynicism and just accept her huge change of heart in the middle of the movie. Although unlikely, this transformation from evil to good is something we all dream about seeing in difficult people. If we keep our focus on the true hero of story, Hassan, we recognize in him a nice coming-of-age tale of a young man who grows personally, professionally, and romantically. Hassan is a bit too perfect of a character, showing virtue and competence at every turn, but he does grow as an individual as he’s thrown into the fire, so to speak.
As you point out, Greg, the villains do shift around during the course of the story. At first, Madame Mallory is the villain, but then the obstacles our heroes face begin to shift. Standing in Hassan’s way is the cutthroat competition of the restaurant business. We learn that the grooming of a top chef requires more blood, sweat, and tears than the U.S. Navy Seal training program. So we first have a “Man vs. Man” theme (or should I say “Man vs. Woman”) that evolves into a “Man vs. Nature” villainesque structure.
I enjoyed The Hundred-Foot Journey but I won’t be sending back for seconds. It was a sweet, albeit a bit slow, story. You’re right, Scott, it was a bit predictable. But I found it satisfied me rather than coming off as trite. The performances were delightful and I liked everyone in the story. I can recommend this movie, especially to my foodie friends. I give The Hundred-Foot Journey 3 out of 5 Reels.
The hero of the story is a bit of a Mary-Sue. Nothing he does is evil. Mostly he acts out of naivete more than animus. In that sense, he lacks dimension and I can only give him 3 out of 5 Heroes.
The villain, Madame Mallory, is more dimensional than the hero. She displays pride, envy, even racism. She plots to destroy her competition. But ultimately, she comes to realize that she is a better person than she has been and has a change of heart. This is a nice villain’s journey. It’s one of the few characters who we have reviewed over the last year that starts out as a villain and turns into some sort of hero. I give her 3 out of 5 Villains.
The Hundred-Foot Journey is a fine meal that is memorable for its color and its texture, but alas, you’ll discover that it is a light supper or heavy snack only. I recommend this film for anyone who loves the process of preparing fine food, or who adores French countryside scenery, or who relishes sappy endings to stories about inter-family conflict. Like you, Greg, I award this movie 3 Reels out of 5.
Out of an ensemble hero cast, we see Hassan emerge as the main hero who represents the best of humanity. He is the catalyst for peace between the two families and then boldly pursues a challenging career as a top French chef. It’s a fairly strong hero’s journey, as we see Hassan navigate his way through cultural barriers, encounter a love interest, and receive mentoring from an unlikely source. I’ll give Hassan 4 out of 5 Heroes here.
Madame Mallory proves to be an interesting and touching villain-turned-hero, even if I found her transformation to stretch the bounds of credibility. After her change of heart, there are plenty of social, cultural, and personal obstacles standing in Hassan’s way of success. This film’s villain structure is complex and shows us that humans are usually their own worst enemies. I’ll agree with you, Greg, that the villains here deserve a rating of 3 out of 5.