Movie Review: The 100 Foot Journey (2014)

Posted: August 23, 2014 in Comedy, Drama
Tags: ,

THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY

After his wife (Juhi Chawla) dies in a spate of religious violence, the patriarch of the Kadam family (Om Puri) moves his family to Europe, where they finally settle in a small town in France.  Papa Kadam finds a plot of land, which he spontaneously buys without consulting his children.  Papa Kadam plans to build an Indian restaurant on the plot of land he just purchased.  There is a fly in the ointment, however, and the problem is that a world renowned French restaurant resides 100 feet away from the place where Papa Kadam wants to open his Indian restaurant, and the people in the small French village have never eaten Indian food before.  The owner of the French restaurant, Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren) thinks her new neighbors are noisy and plans to crush the new competition to her restaurant.  Papa has a secret weapon, his son, Hassan (Manish Dayal) has learned all his mother’s recipes, and a pretty sous-chef, named Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon) from Madame Mallory’s restaurant helps Hassan learn French cooking.  Can Hassan and his skill as a chef challenge the award winning French restaurant 100 feet away?

The 100 Foot Journey is a decidedly mixed bag of a movie. It handles the lighthearted themes of the competition well, it handles the heavier themes of immigrants in a new land, and a son trying to gain the acceptance of his father well, but it takes too long to develop the main character, every character should have a dramatic arc, but the main character in this movie, Hassan, seemed very gradual in learning about cooking and life, and that was to the movie’s detriment. The movie has its share of ludicrous scenes as well, like the ubiquitous montage, where the Indian restaurant goes from an idea to a fully functioning restaurant complete with Taj Mahal-esque wooden façade, in the span of the montage.  The Indian restaurant goes from empty to a full house on the first day, that would certainly never happen.  There is a clunky romance between Hassan and Marguerite, that seems forced, and the ending is predictable.  It tries hard to be The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but is not nearly as good.

The acting ranges widely in this film.  Helen Mirren is very good, and she modulates her performance from nasty, uptight competitor to likable, helpful friend, and she does it so subtly, that it’s fun to watch the transformation.  Indian actor Om Puri has the deep voice and the gravitas to pull off the patriarchal role well.  Manish Dayal is unfortunately dull and flat as Hassan, in a role than needed charm and a light touch, his performance comes off as heavy handed, and since he is the center of the movie, his performance drags the movie down.  Charlotte Le Bon is vibrant and pretty, she doesn’t have the acting chops of Marion Cotillard yet, but she was refreshing to watch.  Unfortunately, Dayal and Le Bon have no chemistry, and that hurts the movie as well.

The cinematography is wonderful, the beautiful shots of that picturesque village in France made me want to visit there.  The external shots of a vegetable market in India were inviting and full of color.  But the movie is too long, and the pacing is too slow, a half hour of this movie should have been edited out.

One final note, there was nobody in the theater to watch this, save an elderly couple, who were decidedly not Indian.  If Indian people do not support Indian themed movies made in Hollywood, there will be no more Indian themed movies in Hollywood.  This movie was only made because of the success of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, if studios see no profit in movies like this, they won’t make them.

The 100 Foot Journey.  A long, and sometimes enjoyable journey.

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