Starring: Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal
Directed by: Lasse Hallstrom (“Safe Haven”)
Written by: Steven Knight (“Locke”)
With the prominence and widespread popularity of cooking shows, cooking competitions and the Food Network, culinary-based entertainment has taken major strides in permeating popular culture. As such, works of fiction blended with stylized gorgeous looking plates of perfectly positioned food have been seen with more frequency. In a very successful example, Jon Favreau’s “Chef” was a seamless blend of great story and mouthwatering food porn that still stands out as a one of the top films of the year thus far. As an adaptation of a novel from 2010, producers Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg bring together the cultural culinary clash in “The Hundred-Foot Journey.”
After becoming displaced from their home in India, a family finds themselves in France looking to open a restaurant. With family recipes from his father (Om Puri) and mother in hand, the up-and-coming and talented Hassan (Manish Dayal) appears ready to take the reins and make his mark on the culinary world. But when they open their restaurant across from a world-renowned one owned by the ruthless and traditional Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren), the family must try to keep up with the competition.
In the film’s more light-hearted moments, Puri is able to display some moments of humor than stand out, especially in his interactions with Mirren. While it is definitely not her best performance, Mirren takes the weak material she is given and carries the film handily. Perhaps the most surprising performance is that of Dayal, who really displays a passion for cooking throughout the film. His romantic scenes (and the whole relationship plot altogether) are a bit flimsy, but it’s overall a pretty solid performance.
As the film moves away from the initial battle between the restaurants, screenwriter Steven Knight incorporates multiple plots, unraveling the focus of the film and leaving a mess. It becomes clear in the back half of the movie that it doesn’t have a true grasp on what it wants to be. Is it a love story? Is it a film about the old guard being lowered and a new one taking over? Is it a story about merging cultures? Is it a rags to riches story? All of these are themes that appear in the second half of the film, and the general direction of movie seemingly changes on a scene-to-scene basis.
As a film about a rivalry between restaurants and cultures, “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is mostly harmless, if not a tad dull. But as the film continues and the aforementioned thematic confusion sets in, its major lack of cohesiveness becomes obvious. Even further, only a fraction of the plots seem to be successful. When combined with an overlong running time, “The Hundred-Foot Journey” feels, on the whole, a bit superfluous.