Reviewed by: Samuel Chetty
food in the Bible
importance of family heritage
rivalry / dealing kindly with competitors, instead of taking revenge
world of French haute cuisine
downfalls of fame / the true costs of rising to the top in one’s profession
accepting others who are different than you
|Featuring:||Helen Mirren … Madame Mallory
Manish Dayal … Hassan Haji
Rohan Chand … Young Hassan Haji
Charlotte Le Bon … Marguerite
Om Puri … Papa Kadam
Juhi Chawla …
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|Director:||Lasse Hallström—“Chocolat” (2000), “The Cider House Rules” (1999)|
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|Distributor:||Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures|
Review updated 8.18.2014.
The trailer for “The Hundred-Foot Journey” gave me some uncertainty as to what the movie’s most prominent features would be. Would it be mostly about business competition? Or a love story? Or difficulty assimilating into a new culture? I also couldn’t tell if it was a comedy or a serious drama. But what I perceived after watching it is that none of those descriptions described the movie, overall, though it has all of those elements.
The movie gets a wide range of subject matter incorporated by telling a story of an Indian family who flees from India after they are targeted by political protests and their restaurant is burned down. At this time, Hassan Haji (Manish Dayal) was a young boy, and his mother died in the fire. His father Papa Kadam (Om Puri) escapes to Europe with the rest of his family, and after living in various European locations as Hassan grows up, the family moves to the town of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val in France, with Hassan now a young adult.
They find property to open their own restaurant, but it is very close to a famous restaurant run by Madame Mallory, who at first ridicules Papa Kadam’s restaurant, but later sees it become popular and worries that it threatens her own restaurant. A tense rivalry begins between the restaurants. The owners come from very different cultures, each feeling they know the style and tactics to defeat the other, but as the movie goes on, they find out whether that attitude is really in the best interest of either one of them.
The characters start the movie with some stereotypical traits, but the two hour screen time allows the personalities to round out in a way that does not feel hurried. We also see some differentiated personalities in both restaurants. Pappa Kadam’s attempts to match Madame Mallory’s aggressive business tactics are often not applauded by his sons, and Madam Mallory discovers contrasting approaches between her and her employees, as well. The movie could attract a very wide audience with its diverse subject matter and high quality visual effects for the scenery and food preparation.
The weakness I found with the movie was that the pacing of the story felt too slow. While the two hour screen time allowed characterization depth, I felt that the story did not have enough major developments to support that running time. Some 1½-hour movies have more plot complexity. With regard to this issue, I can see viewers falling in two different groups. Some may think the simplicity of the plot is a strength that gives the movie a more natural feel and lets the characters mature naturally and express themselves without forcing events upon them. Others, however, may describe the movie as two hours of arguing and cooking.
This movie has a strongly positive message about respecting and learning from people of different cultures rather than trying to succeed by using your own culture to defeat others. The message is not about giving up things important to us in order to fit in, but, rather, seeing what we can gain from the techniques of others to enhance what we already have.
Overall, though I found both strengths and weaknesses in the movie, I recommend seeing it because it has aspects which you may find fascinating.
Potentially Objectionable Content
After my review was uploaded, a viewer comment described a suggestive scene as follows: “A passionate lingering kiss in the kitchen of the restaurant is followed by rushing into the dining room where guests await all while the couple quickly button and tuck in their clothes” (emphasis mine to indicate what I didn’t personally detect). Madame Mallory once described cooking as a “passionate affair” rather than an “old, tired marriage.”
There are two scenes in which a restaurant is intentionally set on fire. The one at the beginning may be particularly disturbing for younger kids as the family’s mother dies. You see her trapped in the flames, although it wasn’t gory or prolonged. Another concern for parents may be the sons’ occasional disrespectful attitude toward their father which involves insulting dialog, interrupting him while he’s talking to other people, and once trying to grab his phone to stop him from taking a call.
Some Christians may be concerned about how Papa Kadam mentions receiving advice from his deceased wife several times, and there are multiple references to spirits in food. Such discussion is not prevalent in the movie though. The only other faith-oriented concern may be when someone refers to a cook book as the Bible.
Characters drink wine in moderation until a point near the end when Hassan becomes depressed and starts drinking in a heavier manner. The rivalry between the restaurants occasionally employs bribery, stealing, or lying, but the message of the movie stands against these tactics.
Language: God’s name as an interjection (4), “Bloody” as a swear word (4), “To h*ll with them” (1), s-word (1).
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Moderate—“Oh G*d” (2), “My G*d” (1), “For G*d’s sakes” (1) / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.