Food movies, movies on food, eating, cooking have a magical capability of bringing out the warm fuzzy in us, couple it with a side of romance and you have a 100 odd minutes well spent.
The 100 foot journey does precisely that, albeit, in a slightly clichéd way. So, we have the Mumbai based Kadam family - Mama, Juhi Chawla (in a sweet cameo), Papa, Om Puri, the 'star son' Hassan, Manish Dayal (dishy!), who is blessed with haath mein jadoo when it comes to cooking and another 2 sets of brothers and sisters who complete the family. Driven by communal riots, death of the mother, political asylum and a dislike for the UK, in that order, leads the family to wander across Europe, only to have a (expected) vehicle failure in a quaint French town of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val. Since cooking is what they do best, the family decides to start inhabiting the town and open an Indian restaurant across the street, about 100 feet away, from an uber sophisticated Michelin star holding one run by the haughty Madam Mallory (Helen Mirren). They also meet the warm and affable Margarit who is a sous chef under Ms Mallory.
The rest of the story follows a slightly predictable path, sprinkled with the right dose of humor and romance. Hassan’s culinary genius spanning Indian curries, classic French sauces, contemporary French as well as modern molecular gastronomy is the crux of the film.
What was good?
Heartwarming story: The characters and situations are warm with a lining of humor. The romance between Papa and Madam Mallory was better conceived than the one between Hassan and Margarit, although the two made a great couple. The mother- son scenes were a little forced but, added to the story well.
Acting: The acting was pretty top notch by most of the cast, Manish Dayal is perfect as the innocent faced genius who has an unending passion for food. Om Puri and Hellen Mirren are fab. The rest of the cast excel in their limited roles.
Food, food, food: The love, passion, hard work that all the main characters have towards food, oozes out in multiple scenes. Hassan and Madam Mallory obviously are the top of the lot, with their passion to create magic and win the coveted Michelin stars. Margarit’s jealousy and the head chef’s defiance and for that matter Papa Kadam’s arrogance were all a result of their love for food.
Indian food is the best ‘not’: I liked the fact that at no point there was a dramatic declaration that only Indian food can solve all problems. The story showed the Indian restaurant coexisting with the French one and not a dramatic turn of events where the clientele upon one taste of a curry turn their backs on French food.. Hassan’s signature style was also shown to be one blending contemporary French with a hint of Indian.
What could be better.
The ‘clichéd-ness’: From the sea urchin seller prophesizing about Hassan, the spice box (which seem to be unlimited to have survived of years usage at a restaurant), to Madam Mallory’s turn of heart for Hassan, to the scene around home cooked food in a swanky Parisian setting. But, if you could ignore these minor irritants and focus on the beauty passion and chemistry the movie really works.
The last 20 mins or so: Too slow, too much, too rushed, the last 20 mins or so could do with better screenplay and direction.
Overall, the 100 foot journey is a lovely, heart warming story that should be savored like a perfect omelet on a lazy morning.