We wrap up this weekend with a movie with a little more spice and seasoning to it, literally. Diverging from the blockbusters of this weekend, my final review is on the latest production from the legendary Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey entitled The Hundred-Foot Journey. When I first saw the trailers for this movie, I had the story pretty much figured out, but with such an epic cast and production team on the project I held high hopes for this movie. Was I disappointed? As always, read on to find out.
The first thing I will say about this film is how cultured it is. Hundred-Foot Journey centers on introducing the audience to the beliefs, lifestyles, and manners of two divers cultures. While food is the main medium, the movie overall does a great job introducing us to so many qualities of Indian and French life. However, unlike a documentary, this film does it in a manner that is entertaining and fun. At the start of the movie we get a brief introduction into why the main character Hassan (Manish Dayal) is obsessed with cooking and how he ends up across the street from the legendary chef Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren). Yet after a more serious opening, the laughs begin to roll in as the family begins to face struggles in opening up the restaurant. Yes the first component that makes this movie fun is the humor. The Hundred-Foot Journey is a blend of situational comedy and clever writing that is simple and witty and not overdone. What maximized the laughs for me was the timing of the lines, placed at the right moment to break the drama and lighten up the situation. Often these lines were complaints from Mallory or her Indian rival Papa (Om Puri). Both heads of the household took potshots at one another’s cultures, often in metaphors about the music and food. Puri in particular had some of my favorite lines, with his accent giving his lines a little more spunk and zest.
Comedy aside though, the next aspect that it made it fun were the characters themselves. The Hundred-Foot Journey has a cast of characters that are very diverse and realistic. Most modern protagonists are very one dimensional, having one or two qualities complementing their physical features. Yet, the characters on this movie are more dynamic, each of the main characters having dreams, fears, turmoil, and pride all shown. I was able to latch on to the characters, and follow this slower paced tale all the way keeping in time with the journey at hand. The struggles they faced, the accomplishments they made, and the love of family and friends were all well done. Although a bit sappy at parts, the emotion in this movie is not over played, with tears and sobs only used at the most intense moments. Even when racist actions were done, the reactions lacked the steroid induced rage and crying, that Hollywood infuses into their scenes. Such reactions are much more relevant to me, and make for a good cast to present the morals. However, maybe I related to the cast more because both families reminded me of my own.
Of course the characters are only as good as the acting, and the casting director should get some serious recognition for this team. As always Mirren brings her talent to the screen, bringing the strict chef out in all the right ways. Intense and controlled dialog, with emphasis on all the right syllables brings back memories of those uptight teachers from school that you didn’t get along with. Yet that intensity melts at times when the colorful cuisines are presented. Puri played the stubborn father role to the letter, his resistance to the obstacles at hand reminding me very much of my own father. While he was the funniest character for me, his humor was only a part of his character not the whole package, and his pride and morals drove the character to do great things. The young aspiring chef protagonist Hassan was greatly portrayed by Dayal, whose charming looks might swoon the ladies. Unlike other pretty boys though, Dayal can act without going to the extremes, and does a nice job of covering the emotional spectrum. Playing his counter part Margaritte is Charlotte Le Bon, who is mousy, energetic, and upbeat that made you feel grand. And again, that is only one component, for she too was susceptible to the less pleasant qualities that dwell within us all. Bottom line is the chemistry for these guys was fantastic and mixed well together to bring the story to life.
The story that tied them all together was predictable as expected, but it didn’t matter because all of the above qualities were able to make it fun to go through. And the fact that the culture was brought out through the whole movie in different mediums other than food helped round out the experience. There were plenty of times I was swaying to the music, the fun beats of the Indian music bringing an infectious energy, while the French elegance was capture beautifully in the orchestra. Even the dialog and jokes had cultural relevance and was not gibberish designed to be stupid and overacted.
If you can’t tell, I really like this movie a lot and highly recommend many to go see this portrayal of the novel. It is not the most exciting movie, it is not the most original concept, but it is a very balanced movie that has a great familial atmosphere to it. The relatable characters and stories should allow a majority of audience members to latch on to the players in the story and keep you engaged into the tale. My scores for the Hundred Foot Journey are:
Movie Overall: 8.0