The Hundred Foot Journey **1/4
Dir: Lasse Hallstrom
Starring: Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, Charlotte Le Bon, Amit Shah (Mansur Kadam), Farzana Dua Elahe
Om Puri and Helen Mirren can probably make reading a phone book interesting. But even the two of them together can’t lift this hackneyed affair (based on the 2010 best-seller by Richard C.Morais) about the coming together of two cultures and cuisines. The movie takes the cookie cutter approach with simple ingredients designed to fool an ill-informed palate into believing that it has just ingested a gastronomic delight whereas it’s the equivalent of a fast-food meal.
The Kadam family escapes India (fleeing from some riots emanating from “some election or other”) and arrives in a picturesque French village. The patriarch of the family (Om Puri) decides to set up an eatery serving traditional North Indian cuisine right opposite the Michelin starred restaurant run by the formidable, widowed Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren, affecting a dodgy French accent) and much to her chagrin. Handling the chef’s duties for the Maison Mumbai is Hassan (Manish Dayal), the Kadams’ middle son. The sous chef for Le Saule Pleureur is Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon, bearing a striking resemblance to Rose Byrne). What follows is utterly predictable from the get-go and the movie deals in simplistic stereotypes and clichés. Mirren and Puri do what they can but while Dayal and Le Bon are an attractive couple, their relationship is never quite convincing.
The set-up is semi-interesting but rather than digging deeper Lasse Hallstom only skims the surface. I feared for the worst when Hassan’s mother (Juhi Chawla in a cameo) says of a sea urchin “It tastes like life” at the beginning of the movie. This was typical of the nonsensical, pseudo magical-realism which pervaded Hallstrom’s inexplicably popular Chocolat. Unfortunately, my worst fears were realised. However, if fast food is what gets your gastronomic juices flowing then you can try this one out.
Cut to chase: Cliched and trite. Definitely not a satisfying meal.