‘One Hundred Foot Journey’ A Delightful Tale of Culinary Passions [Film Review]

Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions collaborated with Steven Spielberg’s Amblin and Dreamworks to bring audiences this refreshing of tale simmering culinary and romantic passions.  One Hundred Foot Journey is the tale of a family of restaurateurs from Mumbai who settle in France to open up an Indian cuisine restaurant 100 feet directly across from a respected,  high-end, Michelin starred French restaurant owned and operated by Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren).   Madame Mallory’s Le Saule Pleureur serves only the best clientele.

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The Kadam family restaurant  is helmed by their “Papa” (Om Puri).  During a violent attack of civil unrest the Mumbaikar restaurant is set ablaze and the matriarch of the family is killed.  The family flees and winds up in France to attempt to start anew.  The esteemed cook in the family is their son Hassan who was meticulously trained by his mother. 

As the family makes their way through the villages of France, their shabby van breaks down and they are aided by a lovely french woman named Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon) who also aspires to be chef.  Papa Kadam becomes smitten by a property that he feels certain is the perfect location for their new restaurant. An Indian restaurant in the heart of France.  He dubs the new eatery “Maison Mumbai.” 

Madame Mallory however, does not wish to share such close quarters with her new culinary neighbors. Their music is too loud and they lack class.  She goes out of her way to thwart their efforts to thrive in their new setting, but somehow the Kadam family prevails.  After a lackluster start, the people-savvy Papa Kadam finds a way to garner up happy patrons, leaving Madame Mallory even more exasperated.

Marguerite, as it turns out, is a sous-chef at Madame Mallory’s restaurant and provides Hassan with a few books on French cuisine. Hassan quickly finds himself enamored with Marguerite and a romance slowly blossoms.

After a number of territorial battles crecendo into an ugly blaze that burns both of Hassan’s hands, Madame Mallory concedes that she never wanted or condoned such a savage act of aggression to hinder her competition.  She fires the sous-chef who arranged for the blaze to be set.

Hassan however has new designs for his life.  He has decided that if he cannot beat Le  Saule Pleureur, he will try to join them.   After having been advised by Marguerite that Mallory can definitively detect a culinary talent by merely having a student make an omelette, Hassan seizes his moment.

Hassan, who cannot yet utilize his burned and bandaged hands, takes advantage of Madam Mallory’s humbled state and stands by as she prepares an omelette via his instructions.  She prepares, and cooks and tastes the omelette and Hassan instantly gains her high favor, but Hassan’s new favor leaves a sour taste in Maguerite’s mouth since she has her own lofty culinary aspirations. 

Mallory implores Papa Kadam to allow her son to work at Le Saule Pleureur and help her transform the up-scale eatery from a one star Michelin restaurant to a two or three star Michelin restaurant. A three star restaurant is extremely rare, hence two would be considered top of the line.

Papa Kadam reluctantly releases Hassan and allows him to leave Maison Mumbai to embark on his new journey 100 feet away at Madam Mallory’s Le Saule Pleureur.   Hassan does indeed flourish at La Saule Pleureur and becomes the toast of France.

One Hundred Foot Journey renders its share of pleasant turnabouts.  It evolves from a tale rooted in the culture of culinary affairs to blossoming affairs of the heart, not just between Hassan and Marguerite.

Penned for the screen by Steven Knight and adapted from a book by Richard C. Morais, One Hundred Foot Journey is an engaging watch from beginning to end.  Directed by Lasse Holstrom,   every performance is notably polished and believable.  From the already long-time heralded Helen Mirren as Madame Mallory to Om Puri’s animated and scene-stealing performance as Papa Kadam.  The festive and upbeat musical soundtrack is courtesy of A.R. Rahman (Slum Dog Milllionaire).

The cinematography is crisp, vibrant and infused with stunning, bold color.  Foodies, or culinary aficionado’s will wholly appreciate this production and its depiction of the high art of cuisine.  Holstrom delivers a production that highlights the color, texture and presentation of the cuisine as well as the presentation of the actors.  A montage of frustration-filled  food prep chopping is rendered amusing as well as a favorable testament to the culinary craft.

Rated PG, One Hundred Foot Journey is family friendly and just as appealing for adults who simply want to enjoy a worthy piece of fiction for the screen sans blood, gore, explosions, profanity and nudity.   The film runs 122 minutes and is in limited release in selected theaters.  It rates four out of five stars.