Like a French bouillabaisse or an Indian Keralite both are dishes that take time and they can be 5 star or comfort food. “The Hundred Foot Journey” is more of the latter than the former with a cast that would earn the Michelin top 3 stars while the story line by Steven Knight, based on a novel by Richard C. Morais, would probably not earn any.
Helen Mirren, as Madame Mallory, a widow, owns a top old school French restaurant, and is always a joy to watch whether being haughty, fighting dirty or breaking into a beautiful smile. Om Puri, as Papa, and the father of 5 children, who leaves India after the death of his wife in a fire and, because of circumstances, opens an Indian restaurant 100 feet across from the French restaurant. They declare war on each other and, with that, if you don’t know where their relationship is heading you are new to movies. Though Puri is more or less scowling at Mirren during the first half of the movie, and is sometimes hard to understand, when he smiles, whether it be at his children or, eventually at Madame Mallory, he holds his own in every scene with Mirren.
Madame Mallory’s sous chef, Marguerite, played by Charlotte Le Bon, starts a flirtation with Papa’s son Hasson Kadam, played by Manish Dayal, a yet to be discovered top chef, at one point is in competition with Marguerite and, once again, if you don’t know where this is leading it can only be because you haven’t been to too many movies. Le Bon is pretty with doe eyes and Dayal is handsome and they have just enough chemistry to make it believable that they could be a couple. The rest of the cast consisting mainly of Papa’s four other children, Madame Mallory’s kitchen staff, the mayor and his wife, fill their roles with only a couple adding ‘spice’ in scenes.
Talking about two restaurants, chefs and spice there is no way you can discuss “The Hundred Foot Journey” without discussing the dishes and, how they are made, concentrating from beginning to end on just a few. If all the scenes on/of food looked like the omelet Hasson makes, with help from Madame Mallory due to circumstances, you might have left the theatre hungry but not many are that good. By the way the Madame does something with pan and omelet that I had never seen before. Oh yes, you may want to try a sea urchin--see the movie!
Director Lasse Hallstrom, and the director of photography Linus Sandgren, show off the French village of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val in all its lush greenery.
Due to the fact that it takes too long--they could have cut the Paris segment--and that no way would the portions satisfy Americans as in France, and better restaurants, it is the presentation of the food and not the quantity, “The Hundred Foot Journey” is more comfort food than fine dining.