I must admit I was not all that enthused about seeing The Hundred-Foot Journey, even though it’s supposedly a comedy about an Indian restaurant opening next to a Michelin-starred one in France. And being the pig I am, that should have made it a must-see. The poster, however, just made it look…boring, and it didn’t help that it had Helen Mirren acting all Queen-like on it.
Anyway, I ended up watching the movie on my flight back to Sydney because I had more or less seen everything else on offer. The premise is better thought-through than I imagined: an Indian family that ran a restaurant in Mumbai is forced the leave India for the UK due to civil unrest, and then relocates to France because English vegetables suck. They eventually settle near the village Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val and decide to open a loud Indian restaurant in the abandoned building across the road from an upscale French restaurant owned by Helen Mirren (who plays an English-speaking woman with a French accent), sparking a competitive “war” between the two sides. I don’t want to give too much more of the plot away, though I will say I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that there’s a lot more to the story than this initial chapter.
It’s never a bad thing to have Helen Mirren in any film, and she is as brilliant as you would expect as the seemingly stuck up Madame Mallory. Indian-American actor Manish Dayal plays the central character, the culinarily gifted Hassan, with veteran Om Puri playing his traditional yet feisty father. French actress Charlotte Le Bon plays the attractive sous chef at the French restaurant who develops a friendship with Hassan, though I found the chemistry between them to be somewhat lacking.
The weird thing is that while the film turned out very similar to what I had expected, I actually ended up quite liking it. Not that I would have minded, but the film is nowhere near the food porn that Jon Favreau’s Chef is because it’s all about the characters and their respective journeys. It’s mildly amusing but not super funny. And the romance(s) isn’t a central focus of the film, so it’s never given proper attention.
It’s really a mish-mash of several ideas that can’t really decide what it wants to be (as reflected in at least two direction changes in the plot), and yet the final product is undeniably likable. The food is nice, the story is pleasant and the characters are affable. Nothing about it will blow you away, but it’ll more than do the trick if you’re simply after a feel-good experience. If we’re comparing it to cuisine, The One-Hundred Foot Journey is no Michelin star banquet, but it’s a lovely and warm home-cooked meal some might find just as enjoyable.
3.5 stars out of 5