Movie Review #939
|Nationwide release on August 8, 2014. Comedy/Drama. This film is rated PG for thematic elements, some violence, language and brief sensuality. Runs 122 minutes. An Indian-Emirati co-production, with additional American involvement. Directed by Lasse Hallström. Screenplay by Steven Knight. Based on a book by Richard C. Morais. Cast: Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, Charlotte Le Bon, Amit Shah, Farzana Dua Elahe, Dillon Mitra, Aria Padnya, Rohan Chand, Saachi Parekh, and Shaunak Parekh.|
By Alexander Diminiano
Don’t take my word for it just yet, but I feel I just might respect Lasse Hällstrom as a director now. There’s still films of his that I don’t enjoy (“The Cider House Rules”, for one), but I absolutely adored “The Hundred-Foot Journey”. As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing here worth complaining about. Okay maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. The last twenty minutes are rather confusing, and Hällstrom presents at least forty different endings during that time frame before he actually cuts to the credits.
There. If you came to hear me fuss about the movie, then you can consider this review finished with, because none of the compliments that follow will interest you at all. As much as I love to bitch about movies, there’s no need for it when I’m reviewing a movie this delightful.
“The Hundred-Foot Journey” doesn’t designate itself as a family movie, but it works very well as one. It’s something of a cross between a Hollywood picture and an indie. The script feels authentic and liberated in its continuous shifting between French and English dialogue. This is a wholesome, well-written drama, lightened with waves of buoyant comedy.
Helen Mirren isn’t right under the spotlight, but she certainly delivers one of the finest performances of 2014 in her role as Mme. Mallory, the chef in charge of a restaurant called Le Saule Pleureur in the French village of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val. Across the street is an abandoned building, where a family of Indian émigrés opens a restaurant called Maison Mumbai. She doesn’t approve of them working across the street from her. The heart of the entertainment here is that Mirren plays an extremely competitive woman. She’s not simply going to cook better in order to ensure that her restaurant is more successful than the one across the street. She’s going to wage war–a small-scale French and Indian war, if you will.
“The Hundred-Foot Journey” is far more lighthearted than you’d expect for a tale about classism. It certainly isn’t lightweight, and better yet, it’s not preachy in the least bit. Steven Knight’s screenplay relies on subtleties to deliver its message. It doesn’t spoon-feed us, and for a modern-day release that suits the family audience, that’s pretty huge.