When the Kadam family loses everything in a fire, they leave their native Mumbai behind. Finding themselves in a small French village, they decide to do what they are best at; run a restaurant. The trouble is that 100 feet across the road is Madame Mallory’s (Helen Mirren) Michelin Star restaurant, and she is not too pleased about having competition.
Those in the audience who have seen any of Lasse Hallstrom’s films will have an idea of what’s in store with The Hundred-Foot Journey, those who were expecting something new and exciting, or innovative from the director may as well give up now.
The story is one that Hallstrom has told a million times before; a fish out of water has to find a way to survive in an unfamiliar world. The Kadam family are earnest enough in their desire to open a restaurant, but between Papa Kardam (Om Puri) being completely unwilling to adapt to the world he finds himself in, Mansur (Amit Shah) trying to bully his father and his whole family to be anything but the people they are and Madame Mallory (Hellen Mirren) being the stereotypical stubborn French woman, the film never really stood a chance.
The performances are fine – taking out Helen Mirren’s disastrous and borderline insulting French accent – and the town that the film is set in looks pretty. There is also a germ of a good idea in the story – the clash of culture between east and west – but this has been done before, and in much more endearing ways. As well as this, the film is a food film, a romance, a rivalry film, a culture clash story and a story of racism… So much is going on that the film never really has a chance to form an identity, and as such, The Hundred-Foot Journey never truly becomes anything at all. As soon as the audience has an understanding of what’s going on, the film twists out of our grasp.
As director, Hallstrom makes The Hundred-Foot journey so familiar and laden with sweetness, that it soon becomes trite and twee. Emotion is sucked out of scenes due to people behaving in a way we assume the character would not, and there is literally fireworks between two people at one point. No really, literally. Still, the cinematography is nice, and foodies will appreciate the attention to detail.
The Hundred-Foot Journey is a film that has no idea what it’s trying to be, and so ends up a tonally confused mess. The story is overly sweet, the characters act totally erratically and have no respect for one another, and the plot has more twists and turns than it knows what to do with. Another typical Hallstrom affair, but without any of the emotion that (almost) made the others work.