Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
May 05th
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

 

Mountain Mystic

When Cora Evans died in Boulder Creek in 1957, her thousands of pages of religious writings hadn’t yet been published. More than a half a century later, Evans’ fiery visions and spiritual devotion have inspired a crusade within Catholicism to make her the Santa Cruz Mountains’ first saint

 

Wesak (Water) Taurus Solar Festival, Buddha Blesses the Earth

A most important celebration occurs Sunday, May 3—the Wesak Taurus Buddha Solar Festival/full moon. At the moment of the full moon the Buddha’s presence enters the Earth plane for eight minutes. He brings the Will-to-Good from the Father, which, when reaching humanity becomes goodwill (Mother Principle). Held yearly in a valley hidden deep within the Himalayas, the Wesak festival is prepared for for months in advance (beginning at Winter Solstice). On festival day, amidst pilgrims, disciples and Holy Ones gathered in the valley, the Buddha is invoked through movement, symbols and mantrams. At the moment of the full moon, hearing the words, “We are ready, Buddha, come,” the Lord of Illumination (brother of the Christ) appears in the clouds above the altar to emanate forth the will and purpose of God to earth. The blessing of the father is then held in safekeeping for distribution at the June full moon Goodwill Festival. The day of Wesak (May 3, 8:42 p.m. West Coast) all disciples (east and west) place crystal vessels filled with pure water outside (in gardens, on rooftops, porches and steps) under the heavens. As the Buddha blesses the world, all waters, including waters within our bodies, are blessed. The Buddha is accompanied by the Forces of Enlightenment to illuminate humanity’s minds. Humanity then begins to express new constructive, productive and beneficial ways of the Art of Livingness. Wesak covers five days—two days (before) of dedicated preparation, the actual festival “Day of Safeguarding,” and two days (after) distributing goodwill (the NGWS to humanity). Join us in the Valley by reciting the Great Invocation, mantra of direction for humanity.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of May 1

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

 

Hole in the Wall

Popular Aptos spot opens for dinner

 

How do you connect with the natural world?

My connection to the natural world is through my art. I totally feel it there very physically in nature and even right here on the street. Jonathan Rosen, Felton, Pastor

 

Hess Collection Winery

My friend Emma from London came to visit for a few days in early March, so I took her wine tasting in the Santa Cruz Mountains—a rare treat for her, as there aren’t too many vineyards in the middle of London. Her visit reminded me how fortunate we are to live in this paradise of ultra-fresh produce, with grapes growing in wild profusion.

 

Springtime Walkabout

May Day Flower Festival, free tours of the UCSC Farm, and a nondairy chocolate indulgence