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Overall Rating

Awesome: 9.09%
Worth A Look: 9.09%
Pretty Bad: 9.09%
Total Crap: 9.09%

1 review, 5 user ratings

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Hundred-Foot Journey, The
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by Jay Seaver

"And not even any surprising detours."
3 stars

Good food is wasted on me, but I can generally enjoy a good food movie as much as anyone. But for all that it talks a good game about spice and creativity, "The Hundred-Foot Journey" is rather bland fare. It looks nice enough, but it meanders never finds something that will grab the audience, despite trying a bit of everything.

That meandering starts early on, as the Kadam family arrives in Europe at Rotterdam, having first fled India when their restaurant burned down after a disputed election, then spent a year in London in between. Their car breaks down in a French village, where "Papa" (On Puri) decides to purchase a vacant restaurant and open it with son Hassan (Manish Dayal) cooking. One of the reasons this space is so affordable is that it's directly across the street from a traditional French place with a Michelin star, and while Hassan and sous-chef Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon) become fast friends, owner Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren) is none too enamored with the new neighbors. Hassan developing an interest in French cuisine just complicates things.

I'm curious about the Richard C. Morias novel that screenwriter Steven Knight and director Lasse Hallström adapted. Is it thick with subplots for Hassan's four siblings (or is that three siblings and his sister's husband)? Are the three distinct phases of the story more well-balanced, with at least one character seeming like an active participant in each? As it stands, the film feels like the filmmakers had dozens of ideas that needed to either be fleshed out or pruned away to give the rest some room. It hurts the film two ways, on the one hand connecting the movie's parts with thin threads, and on the other blunting the moments that should be sharp. Especially at the center, when a certain bit of history repeating should yield a much more dramatic reaction from the Kadams while Mme. Mallory's dissection of some of the lyrics to "La Marseillaise" seems like the end of the film having anything to say about European xenophobia, rather than the beginning.

That's a terrible shame, because getting into how Hassan's and Marguerite's friendship, let alone the potential romance that the movie spends a lot of time avoiding, would have given Manish Dayal and Charlotte Le Bon more interesting things to do. Dayal, despite playing the film's main character, only gets a few chances to take charge of a scene, although he does what Hallström asks of him well enough. Le Bon mostly plays the cheerful French country girl, bit she shows a keen enough edge when Hassan potentially becomes Marguerite's rival rather than just an unthreatening friend to make things interesting. In the other half of the story, Om Puri and Helen Mirren start out giving performances a little gaudier than the movie around them, but have a very nice chemistry when their two characters can finally relax around each other (although their earlier scenes get great help from Michel Blanc as the mayor who just wants to eat good food and wishes the town's two best purveyors of such would just get along).

They're in a Lasse Hallström movie, though, which isn't necessarily a bad thing - it looks great, for example, with the director and cinematographer Linus Sandgren making great use of their picturesque backdrop, especially in comparison to the other locations. The soundtrack by A.R. Rahman balances Bollywood sounds for the Kadams with more Western music for the other characters in a way that's obvious but not overbearing. Hallström doesn't linger on dishes for outright food porn, but he lets them make an impression. The audience will come out feeling like they have seen a classy movie, but one that is neither without good humor or burdened by pretension.

That's a legitimate good feeling, and Hallström earns it fairly honestly. He hasn't made a hollow movie, but the material here feels like it could have been more if the people involved didn't mind surprising their audience or even making them a little uncomfortable, if only for a moment.

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originally posted: 08/14/14 10:07:50
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User Comments

6/02/15 Helen Bradley-Jones Helen Mirren is fantastic, great cast and plot 4 stars
8/17/14 ChesterBelloc Excellent romantic comedy with spectacular photography 5 stars
8/16/14 eddie lydecker Helen Mirren is a bloody load of old rubbish 1 stars
8/14/14 al A monumental waste of time. 2 stars
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  08-Aug-2014 (PG-13)
  DVD: 02-Dec-2014


  DVD: 02-Dec-2014

Directed by
  Lasse Hallstrom

Written by
  Steve Knight

  Helen Mirren
  Manish Dayal
  Om Puri
  Charlotte Le Bon

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