Santa Cruz Good Times

Wednesday
Nov 26th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Cultures Collide

fm hundredfootNo surprises, but lots to savor in foodie film ‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’

If you’ve seen the preview trailer for The Hundred-Foot Journey, you’ve seen the movie. If you’ve seen any foodie film in recent history in which cross-cultural food becomes a metaphor for spicing up life and/or romance—Chef, Chocolat, Babette's Feast, Like Water For Chocolate—you’ve seen this movie. Basically, nothing happens here that’s not telegraphed in the first 15 minutes or so, besides which every major plot twist and punchline has already been revealed in that trailer.

And yet, having said all that, The Hundred-Foot Journey has its easygoing charms. Thoroughly engaging performances are provided by a mixed cast of veterans and newcomers, led by the redoubtable Helen Mirren and Indian national treasure Om Puri. The location is irresistible, a sun-drenched corner of the south of France where an upstart family-run Indian eatery sets up shop across the street from a venerable French restaurant. And there’s plenty of good-looking food (of course), from haute cuisine to vivid masala-spiced Indian dishes to simple French country cooking, presented with enough relish to make it all go down smoothly.

Scripted by Steven Knight from the novel by Richard C. Morais, the film is directed by Lasse Hallstrom (who, by the way, also directed Chocolat, along with a slew of other novel adaptations). The story begins in flashbacks to India, where the large and boisterous Kadam family operated a popular restaurant, and where eldest son, Hassan, grew up cooking at his mother’s side. But a political uprising led to tragedy, and the family is forced to flee to the west, under the leadership of crusty, proud widower, Papa (Puri).

After an unhappy stay in rainy England, the Kadams are driving aimlessly through Europe, looking for a place to put down roots, when their decrepit vehicle breaks down in a charming French village. Its claim to fame is an elegant one-star Michelin restaurant on the main road, presided over by haughty widow, Madame Mallory (Mirren). When Papa discovers a large stone farmhouse for sale, complete with kitchen and dining area, he’s sure he’s found the site for the next Kadam family enterprise, with himself greeting guests, the now-grown Hassan (Manish Dayal) in the kitchen, and the older siblings waiting tables.

The only catch? It’s right across the road from Madame Mallory’s place. Papa insists the town is big enough for both classical French and traditional Indian food, but a cold war quickly escalates between the two establishments. Mme. Mallory complains to the mayor that the music is too loud at the new Maison Mumbai, and the temple facade that the Kadams erect in their courtyard is too gaudy. Both proprietors try to sabotage the other by buying up all the best ingredients at the village market.

Meanwhile, Hassan sparks with Mme. Mallory's young sous chef, Marguerite (the lovely and spirited Charlotte Le Bon), who recognizes in him the soul of a fellow food artist. She teaches him the five basic sauces of French cuisine and gives him a pile of cookbooks to study. Once Maison Mumbai establishes itself, both restaurants are attracting customers, and even Mme. Mallory and Papa are grudgingly beginning to warm up to each other (naturellement!), the time is ripe for Hassan to make a move for his own future and offer himself as apprentice to Mme. Mallory.

There seems to be a lot more potential drama in this story than ever actually occurs on screen. There’s no particular rift with Papa when Hassan goes over to the “enemy.” A poisonous mushroom is discovered in one kitchen, but it never figures into the plot. And while dreamy-eyed Dayan and frisky Le Bon are quite charming in their romantic scenes together, it’s a bit troubling that her dreams of becoming a chef de cuisine in her own right appear to get short shrift in the feel-good finale.

Still, the film is inarguably enjoyable. Poetic references abound on the Romance of Food. (“Food is memory,” is Hassan’s motto. “Life has its own flavor,” his mother tells him.) The food is always tantalizing, and Mirren delivers another indelible performance of steely reserve tempered with wry, self-aware humor. It’s not too filling, so you can eat it up without guilt.


THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY *** (out of four) With Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, and Charlotte Le Bon. Written by Steven Knight. From the novel by Richard C. Morais. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom. A Touchstone release. Rated PG. 122 minutes.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Pop Life

The pop-up dining trend is freeing culinary imaginations and creating a guerilla version of event dining around Santa Cruz

 

Over Hills and Plains, Riding a White Horse, Bow and Arrows in Hand

Saturday, early morning, the sun enters and radiates the light of Sagittarius. Three hours later, the Sagittarius new moon (0.07 degrees) occurs. “Let food be sought,” is the personality-building keynote. “Food” means experiences; all kinds, levels and types. It also means real food. Sag’s secret is their love of food. Many, if not musicians, are chefs. Some are both. The energies shift from Scorpio’s deep and transformative waters to the “hills and plains of Sagittarius.” Sag is the rider on a white horse, eyes focused on the mountain peaks of Capricorn (Initiation) ahead. Like Scorpio, Sagittarius is also the “disciple.” Adventure, luck, optimism, joy and the beginnings of gratitude are the hallmarks of Sagittarius. Sag is also one of the signs of silence. The battle lines were drawn in Libra and we were asked to choose where we stood. The Nine Tests were given in Scorpio and we emerged “warriors triumphant.” Now in Sag, we are to be the One-Pointed Disciple, riding over the plains on a white horse, bow and arrows in hand, eyes focused on the Path of Return ahead. Sagittarians are one-pointed (symbol of the arrow). Sag asks, “What is my life’s purpose?” This is their quest, from valleys, plains, meadows and hills, eyes aimed always at the mountaintop. Sag emerges from Scorpio’s deep waters, conflict and tests into the open air. Sag’s quest is humanity’s quest. Sag’s quest, however, is always accompanied by music and good food.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of November 21

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Pie Fidelity

A little Thanksgiving help, plus sip and shop locally at the Art, Wine and Gift Bazaar

 

What should be on everyone’s bucket list?

Hang gliding, because you're free as a bird. Jenni, Santa Cruz, Student/Administrative Assistant

 

Soquel Vineyards

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so it’s time to be thinking about the wine you’re going to serve with that special dinner, be it turkey, ham, a roast, or something vegetarian or vegan.

 

The Kitchen

Chef Santos Majano talks beer-friendly food at Discretion Brewery