• Travel, Movie Reviews, And More Musings

A Hundred Foot Journey Movie Is Delightful

By Nancy Chan, Movie Critic

One could be forgiven for thinking this is a just a simple recipe – a modern fairy tale that is pleasant, if not savoury.  An Indian family from Mumbai migrates to England, then France, after political unrest drives them from their home and restaurant business.

Chance, or faulty brakes leads them to a storybook village and site for a new location for their restaurant, directly across the road from a Michelin-starred, classic French restaurant. The proprietor doesn’t exactly welcome the newcomers‎ with open arms. There’s another kind of star in their midst however; young, soulful Hassan, we are shown, has the gift of culinary genius.

All in all, this is a gentle movie, ably directed by Lasse Hallstrom, its chief charm residing in its characters – notably the patriarch played with wonderful zest by Om Puri, Helen Mirren as the disapproving Madame Mallory, and  Manish Dayal as the budding chef Hassan. The dichotomy between classic French cuisine, traditional but a bit stuffy, and the lively Indian dishes that Hassan conjures up are played up but not just for laughs – we see some snobbery in the dismissive comment by Madame Mallory when she looks at the menu of Maison Mumbai and then says ‘curry is curry, isn’t it?’.   There’s also some xenophobic words and actions that add some depth to the story.

The reverence shown towards a box of spices, more than just culinary tools in a cook’s arsenal, the same reference towards some old. French cookbooks, the hot and cold relationship based on attraction and competition between Hassan and  Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), not to mention between ‘Papa’ and Madame Mallory, and the cutting edge restaurant in Paris where Hassan makes magic with his genius are expertly blended in this film, if you are willing to accept the central conceit of a tiny village being able to support all year round a large Indian restaurant in its midst.

Unfortunately now I am left with the strange desire to recreate some dishes either shown or mentioned: both boeuf bourguignon and dal curry.   I guess that’s what good stories do – stimulate the senses, all of them.

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