3 Stars — Wholesome
Some critics have tried to wound The Hundred-Foot Journey by claiming it is a confection so filled with sugar it could bring on a case of diabetes. Others have flocked to it as the latest book club good cry since it has been brought to the screen by superstar producers Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey. Regardless of the critics, here is a charming way to spend two hours that will leave you hungry to visit the French countryside, bask in romance and join the feast!
Helen Mirren, the Oscar-winning actress who won kudos for playing the very British Queen Elizabeth II, now plays Madame Mallory, the snooty owner of an acclaimed Michelin-rated restaurant in a small French town. Despite the fact that she speaks English throughout the film with an affected French accent, she convincingly conveys the image of an emotionally distant French widow whom everyone tiptoes around due to her imperious persona. Owning a famous restaurant with a one-star rating from Michelin is an honor, but it only leads her to want more, namely a second star.
In a parallel universe, a tight-knit family from India fleeing political unrest in their own country, finds itself stranded in this same small French town as they have been trekking across Europe in search of a place to put down roots and open an Indian restaurant. Leading the family tribe is “Papa” played by the ever-charming Om Puri. Papa’s secret to his success lies in two special family gifts — his late wife’s secret spices and his son Hassan’s (Manish Dayal) home-grown skills in the kitchen befitting a world-class chef.
Without giving away the story, the plot is uncomplicated. There is only one suitable building available for a new restaurant in this small village and it is across the street from Madame Mallory’s famous house of cuisine. The food competition begins, young people fall in love, old people fight, old people fall in love, the world falls in love with food, and the audience sighs with satisfaction. If you have never thought about the art of cooking French food, or Indian food for that matter, this movie will cause you to drive to the best restaurant in town to experience the joy of great food.
Although the outer story of The Hundred-Foot Journey is about food, the underlying story is about family. What is it that ultimately makes you happy? On the surface, Madame Mallory is competing for place and respect in the world of French chefs. For Papa, he wants his family to be together and to be supported regardless of where they live.
In the end, everyone awakens to the fact that their most happy moments are in relation to one another. Whether in a dance in the courtyard, a shared walk through the farmers market, an embrace in the moonlight or a delicious meal, it is ultimately only the love that they give one another that truly satisfies their deepest palate and gives them the sense that they are finally full.
» One assertion by the chefs in this film is that food elicits are strongest memories. Do you find that to be true for you?
» One of the great joys of modern life is the availability of the best of cuisines from all over the world that have come together in large and small cities. How have you enjoyed this opportunity to enjoy the world’s cuisines in your own neighborhood?
» The integrity with which Mallory dealt with the attack on Papa’s restaurant changed the nature of the “war” they were waging. Did you find that believable or a plot twist for the romantic tale?
— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.