A tasty if tame journey
There can’t be a single film fan in the country looking forward to seeing all three of this week’s new movies: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Step-up: All In,” and “The 100 Foot Journey.” But give the industry credit for diversification. Young in intellect? Go for the turtles. Young adult? Watch attractive people your age dance like crazy. But the young at heart might do well to check out “The 100 Foot Journey,” a predictably convenient but gently entertaining film about how cooking can bridge cultures and persuade the passions.
Driven from its native India, the Kadam family ends up accidently, or perhaps not, in a gorgeously quaint village in the south of France. Determined to revive their restaurant and led by widowed father Papa (Om Puri) and his immensely talented-in-the-kitchen son Hassan (Manish Dayal), they set up shop directly across the street (hence, the 100 hundred feet) from a Michelin-starred classical French cuisine. But the haughty restaurant’s icy proprietor Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren) won’t have any curry crassness negatively affect her clientele.
Thus the battle begins.
Throwing some juicy oil on the fire is Mallory’s sous chef, Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), a French beauty (of course) who recognizes Hassan’s gifts as well as his handsomeness and can’t help but fall for the “enemy.”
This all plays out with little surprise, but the richness of “The Hundred Foot Journey” lies in the nuances of the talented cast, especially Mirren. Lasse Hallstrom’s restrained direction helps too as he carefully guides his cast convincingly through formulaic territory with superb attention to detail and beautiful camera work, much as he did in his Oscar-nominated effort “Chocolat.” Mirren is particularly adept at playing the respectful antagonist who wants to earn her second Michelin star.
The film loses some of its momentum in the second hour and feels like it’s about to end at least three times. But that doesn’t completely douse the flames of this understated charmer that will please those looking for a tasty truffle rather than a fast-food trifle at the movie theater.
Rated PG for thematic elements some violence, language and brief sensuality.