'The Hundred-Foot Journey'
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Cast: Om Puri, Helen Mirren
Director Lasse Hallstrom is a very underrated filmmaker. He’s made some of the most significant music videos in the 70’s – including all of Abba’s hits. He’s also made some really excellent movies in the 90’s – like ‘What’s eating Gilbert Grape’ and ‘The Cider House Rules’. All his films are seeped in good-natured saccharine and schmaltz, and his latest ‘The Hundred Foot Journey’ is no exception. It works in some ways, and slips up in others.
'The Hundred-Foot Journey'
‘Feel good’ is an understatement in this case. ‘The Hundred Foot Journey’ is a massage for you. Everything about the film is intended to be lovely, and though you might roll your eyes a couple of times, it’s hard to dislike or hate something about it. It stars Om Puri as a chef who moved out of India and settled in France to impress the locals with traditional desi cuisine. His next door neighbor is rival chef Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren) who is determined to bring Puri’s restaurant down because she can’t stand an outsider stealing her thunder. If you have ever seen a culinary-based movie in your life, you’ll realize that the war turns into tender romance eventually.
The rivalry between Mirren and Puri is quite fun, as is their camaraderie. When he does horrible roles here in India you don’t really realize how good an actor Puri is. He’s terrific in ‘The Hundred Foot Journey’ with his comic timing and even in the sentimental scenes. Holding one’s own against Helen Mirren is no easy feat, but Puri somehow manages.
In many ways ‘The Hundred Foot Journey’ is quite like Hallstrom’s earlier movie ‘Chocolat’. Like that film the central theme is food, is gorgeously shot, has drama thrown in for audiences who love contrived melodrama, and also has some self important vibe to it to make it seem like it is more nuanced than it actually is. The grumpy Judy Dench character is repeated by Mirren here, and the Juliet Binoche one is rehashed to an extent by Puri. That doesn’t necessarily make for a bad movie, but certainly not an original one, and you wish it was much more than what it is. Unfortunately the final act contains an unbelievably pointless subplot and it goes downhill from there on. The previous month’s food based movie ‘Chef’ was classy and fresh in its approach. Having enjoyed ‘Chef’ this movie feels like a disappointing Rajma Chawal after a batch of juicy fish chops.
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