Easy on the eyes and good for the soul, “The Hundred-foot Journey” is a gentle tale about about getting along despite everything. It’s recipe for world harmony is a lot less complicated than those of the two restaurants involved, but this is Disney channeled through Spielberg and Oprah, so expect simple sweetness.
Director Lasse Hallstrom, who served up “Chocolat” in 2000, is back in the kitchen, this time with Helen Mirren and Om Puri as rival restaurateurs. The setting is France (Pyrenees region) and the issue is the arrival of a close-knit family of chefs from Mumbai looking for opportunity in an unfamiliar land after things went bad in India.
Madame Mallory (Mirren) operates a fancy, Michelin one-star restaurant immediately across the road from a run-down mansion acquired and converted by the Indian family. The widowed Papa (Puri) is as headstrong as Madame Mallory is unwelcoming. They commence butting heads almost immediately.
The competition between Madame, an elegant snob, and Papa, determined and resourceful, is spirited. But a xenophobic sous chef working for Madame crosses the line and directs violence at the Indian family. They survive and the mortified Madame crosses the road to personally scrub off the anti-Indian graffiti from her competitor’s front wall.
And suddenly, everything starts to improve. Papa’s son Hassan (Manish Dayal), a culinary prodigy, becomes interested in French cooking. Which leads to an even more urgent interest in Marguerite (the adorable Charlotte Le Bon), Madame’s other sous chef.
Unlikely as it might have seemed at first, romance also blooms between Madame Mallory and Papa. It’s all quite G-rated, which also might have seemed unlikely early in Mirren’s career, which began with a role in “Caligula.”
The camera work, like the dishes, is delicious. If you need a break from fast cars, exploding apartment blocks and chattering machine guns, this is the movie for you.