With its droolworthy visuals and thought-provoking “food is memories” message, “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is, in many ways, the perfect baby boomer movie.
Just don’t come hungry.
The story (based on the 2010 novel by Richard C. Morais) revolves around the Kadam family, Indian immigrants who decide to open Maison Mumbai in a sleepy village in the South of France, after their car breaks down there. Unfortunately, they end up right across the road – one hundred feet – from a classic, Michelin-starred French restaurant run by the intimidating and very proper widow, Madame Mallory (Helene Mirren). Set in her ways and snobbish about her haute cuisine, she does not appreciate her new neighbors or the scent of curry now permeating their shared air.
Papa Kadam (Om Puri), though, is a worthy competitor and he knows he’s got a secret weapon in his son, Hassan (Manish Dayal), whose culinary genius has been apparent since he was a little boy picking out the ideal sea urchin in the market with his late mother.
While Papa is set on serving the traditional dishes he grew up on, Hassan becomes fascinated with a Le Cordon Bleu cookbook – and the beautiful sous chef who introduced him to it. Because Marguerite (Charlotte LeBon) works for the enemy, the young couple’s chemistry is kept on a low flame for much of the movie due to the older generation’s Hatfield and McCoy-like feud.
Meanwhile, Madame Mallory and Papa sizzle. Despite their cultural clash, their attempts to sabotage each other are hilarious because it’s obvious to us, as observers, just how much alike they really are. Both stubborn, full of passion and absolutely convinced their old ways are the best, they’re the ones who ultimately have the most to learn. They’re the ones who have to expand their palates and their hearts – not so they can forget their beloved histories, but so they can make room for new tastes, new experiences, new memories.
Sure, you can probably guess exactly where the movie is heading but you’ll happily go along for the ride. It’s so beautiful to watch – the French countryside is breathtaking, the loving shots of sumptuous dishes, fresh fruits and vegetables will have you licking your lips – it’s like cinematic comfort food. It just makes you feel good.
Producers Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey recently hosted a live Facebook chat, along with Helen Mirren, who actually answered one of my questions:
This foodie fairy tale is directed by Lasse Halstrom, who fully understands that the way to audiences’ hearts is through their stomachs and who previously showed us the power of gastronomical pleasure in the five-time Academy Award-nominated “Chocolat.” (Too bad theaters don’t realize that, too, because your popcorn and soda are likely to be pretty disappointing compared to what you’re seeing onscreen.)
In “The Hundred-Foot Journey,” he proves that we have all the ingredients to spice up our lives and make our dreams come true at any age.
We just have to keep tasting and testing until we come up with the right recipe.
Lois Alter Mark blogs at Midlife at the Oasis and is a regular contributor to Huffington Post. She is the reigning champion of Blogger Idol and was recently named Humor Writer of the Month by Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop. Lois won BlogHer Voices of the Year Awards in 2012 and 2013, and writes regularly on pop culture and travel. Because of her blog, Oprah Winfrey selected her as an Ultimate Viewer and took her to Australia on the trip of a lifetime. A member of the San Diego Film Critics Society, she was the Flicks for Kids editor at NickJr.com and a contributing writer for Entertainment Weekly for more than a decade. Transplanted New Yorkers, Lois and her husband of 32 years now live in San Diego, where they have turned into weather wimps and complain about the pizza. Their grown kids are, of course, both on the East Coast. You can follow Lois on Facebook or Twitter.