Directed by: Lasse Hallstrom
Starring: Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, Charlotte Le Bon
Fleeing persecution in their native India, the Kadam family roam around Europe, looking for the perfect place to establish a traditional Indian restaurant. Through an accident, they find themselves stranded in a small village in the South of France, which family patriarch Papa (Puri) decides is the perfect location for their venture. A premise is available, but just happens to be located directly across the street from a Michelin-starred traditional French eatery, run by Madame Mallory (Mirren), who quickly becomes an enemy of the Kadams, thanks to her underhanded attempts to ruin their business.
There are few sights in life as delightful as watching a beautiful woman let her guard down as she enjoys a mouthful of fine food. Orgasms can be faked, but the unadulterated joy of taste is impossible to conceal. Sadly, there are many women who deny themselves such pleasure, cutting their food into the smallest portions possible, so as to avoid their faces being wrinkled by pleasure. Lasse Hallstrom's film constantly tells us how great an experience the consumption of fine food is, but it never wrinkles its face in the process.
Hallstrom is an odd filmmaker; it's hard to decide whether he's an arthouse director slumming it with such middle of the road films as The Cider House Rules, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen and the so bad it's hilarious Nicholas Sparks adaptation Safe Haven, or an over-achieving hack who adds a glossy exterior to his projects that they probably don't really need.
The Swede's films are always packed with pretty compositions, and The Hundred Foot Journey is no exception, with Hallstrom and cinematographer Linus Sandgren capturing the unique light of Southern France in an impressive manner. The film's various cuisine looks beautiful, yet strangely unappealing, and this is the problem with Hallstrom's CV as a whole. His films are easy on the eye, but they rarely contain any depth, and there's little here for us to invest in.
The screenplay is written by Steven Knight, who won us over this year with his excellent self-directed drama Locke, but this middle of the road comedy-drama seems a strange fit for his sensibilities. Knight's films often highlight the experiences (usually negative) of immigrant communities, so perhaps this is why he was picked to adapt Richard C Morais' novel. It's his first attempt at comedy, and Knight struggles with this genre. A subplot featuring a racist attack on the Kadam's is handled in such a superficial manner that it seems to make light of such an atrocity. The script's biggest fault, however, is that it never decides what story it wants us to follow, with several plot threads that never really get expanded upon enough to reel us in.
For a movie about fine cuisine, The Hundred Foot Journey is as bland as a service station panini; it'll fill a hole for a couple of hours, but you won't be thinking about it for too long afterwards.
By Eric Hillis