Hundred-Foot Journey, The


Release Date: August 7, 2014
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Book by: Richard C. Morais
Screenplay by: Steven Knight
Cast: Manish Dayal, Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Charlotte Le Bon, Amit Shah, Farzana Dua Elahe, Michel Blanc, Juhi Chawla

It’s hard to come off as fresh when you’re trying a pleasing and conventional genre like food films. Food films is a genre, people, and Japan (and many in Asia) have made countless of movies (and series based on novels and mangas) that surround the lives of people that love to eat and cook. They’re all feel-good predictable stories with likable leads that feature mouth-watering shots of food being prepared and eaten. The Swede Lasse Hallstrom shot to mainstream fame with one, featuring one of the world’s favorite French actresses and one of its biggest weaknesses: Chocolat.

In Hallstrom’s The Hundred-Foot Journey, we follow an Indian family from Mumbai who are forced to seek asylum in the UK after riots threaten the family’s prosperous restaurant, which was headed in the kitchen by Mama (Chawla in a short cameo) who imparted all her cooking knowledge and love onto her talented son Hassan (Dayal). After years in which the family -lead by Papa (Puri)- had unprosperously lived near Heathrow Airport where vegetables have no soul, they decide to head over to Europe for a more masala life.

The Haji family ends up settling in a rather remote, but quaint, ville in the south of France where Papa falls in love at first sight with an abandoned place in front of a one-Michelin-star restaurant owned by Madame Mallory (Mirren). When Maison Mumbai opens its doors, all hell breaks loose between Madame and Papa, while Hassan explores his relationship with food and Madame Mallory’s sous-chef, Marguerite (Le Bon).

Though Journey and Chocolat do share evident themes and plot points — outsider arrives to a small town with new flavors that ruffle some feathers — as a food journey, the film met me only halfway through. Some of the shots were delicious, of course, but I measure the success of the genre solely on my craving levels after all is said and done, and I wasn’t dying to hit the local Indian joint by the end of it. There are, however, definitely worthy elements- the biggest of them all is that you not only get one Asian man romancing a (white) woman… but you get TWO! This is unheard of [1]. We got Daniel Henney with Eliza Coupe on Shanghai Calling back in 2012, and you have to go all the way back to 2001 for Jet Li to (sorta) romance Carla Gugino on The One– actually, Jet Li’s a ladies’ man with Kiss of the Dragon and Romeo Must Die.

While a film with two Asian (Dayal is Asian-American) men making over $40M USD [1] is to be applauded, I did feel that having both love storylines felt repetitive making it lag at times, thinking the story was over a couple of times before it was (a case of Return of the King all over again). Now, as awesomely sweet and funny as Om Puri gets to be, what would I have given to have Mama instead of Papa having to struggle to sustain her family in a country that’s not her own, and having to go head-to-head with the unapologetic Madame, and then having them becoming friends instead! Or maybe that’s a girl and Juhi bias.

Overall, though, as a complete filmi foodie package, I’ll take Hallstrom’s take on this somewhat familiar story of food memory, roots and family, than the over-hyped foodie-slash-sorta-father-son movie that Jon Favreau’s Chef was. But nothing will ever come close to Ang Lee’s Eat Drink Man Woman.

Rating: ★★★¼☆ 

P.S.: We’re probably the only non-Indian outlet that noted Juhi’s role.
P.S.2: Look at how much food is featured on the Japanese poster! People who like food go to watch these things at the theater.


YAM Magazine editor, photographer, blogger, translator and part-time web designer. Film junkie, music junkie… and lately series (a.k.a. TV) junkie.

12 Responses

  1. Rodrigo says:

    I liked the film more than you did, even if it felt quite overlong. But I’m not sure how to feel about my country when Papa saying “He’s (Hassan) a bloody terrorist!” gets the biggest laugh in the cinema.

    • amy says:

      @Rodrigo, I watched it again. I still feel it’s too long, but it’s got 3.5 possibilities because of the acting. And yeah, the terrorist comment got the biggest laugh at the theater… and at the press screening. It IS meant to be funny, though. I still find it odd that so many American critics (or bloggers) found it worse than Chef (which was gushed over as a fresh take on food film like they’ve invented food films LOL), and felt -lets say, disappointed- in the fact that Helen Mirren was featured so prominently on the ads, when Dayal and Puri are leading fine. I think it makes sense, she’s the bigger name. Got no problems with it as long as they leave the theater bemused by the Asian(American) male leads.

      Also, interesting reaction in regards of audience. Press is always filled with men, while the film’s target is mostly women, so while men gushed over how good Mirren still looks and how much like Winona/Rose Byrne/Paz Vega (that one was mine) Le Bon looks like and how her crooked teeth makes her more charming, women during the show were just claiming how bitchy and rude Mirren’s character was to the perfectly cozy Papa. LOL

      • Rodrigo says:

        @amy, I agree that the acting made the film stronger. Helen Mirren might be shoe-in for a Globes nom in the Comedy field because she’s Helen Mirren and that’s the most I think this film could get, awards-wise (wouldn’t mind Om Puri getting something too in the Globes as Lead Actor). Okay, maybe a Best Comedy Film nom, but that one isn’t so secure as Mirren getting nominated.

        I got it that the terrorist comment was funny, and I laughed too with it. If this was a story with Muslim immigrants, that joke would be another story.

        And yes, Mirren looked really good with her wardrobe. Good to see I wasn’t the only one thinking of that.

        I haven’t seen Chef yet, though.

        • amy says:

          @Rodrigo, LOL! That’s the thing ;) they WERE a Muslim family. And it was a film backed by the UAE. In the story it’s kinda subtle, but they actually left India because of the riots, which would’ve likely involved Hindu-Muslim riots caused by a political candidate winning. That makes Om Puri’s comments even funnier. Plus, it’s the whole issue France (and other European countries) are having with Muslim immigration.

      • Rodrigo says:

        @amy, The film doesn’t directly imply at all (IIRC) that they’re a Muslim family, though the book mentions that they are. I guess they didn’t directly hinted at it to not draw some sort of controversy that could harm them, but it’s still a funny joke/line.

        Oh, and the Indian family’s surname in the film is actually Kadam, even if you mentioned the Haji surname since it was in the book.

        • amy says:

          @Rodrigo, they do kinda hint at it in terms of the riots, and the fact that the character names aren’t Hindu in nature. They’re not Kapoors and no character is called Raj or Rahul LOL, or any of the common Hindu names, but we’re not necessarily an audience that would relate an Indian family with Muslim faith, so we just kinda assume they’re Hindu because they’re Indian… and Om Puri puts on his Indian get-up with his Taj covered restaurant xD

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