AMC Theaters runs a commercial/preview/time-waster program before the feature presentation (and even before the "Coming Attractions"). As The Hundred-Foot Journey is rated PG, the program featured makeup advertisements aimed at pimply early-adolescent girls, toys hawked by screamy voices, and spots for the currently popular very ugly cartoons on Cartoon Network. Looking around at the rows of senior citizens and middle-aged folks, I turned to Bernie and asked, "Who do they think is their target audience for these ads?"
It was, in fact, a very good turnout for a 10am showing of what is basically a food movie. Food and Helen Mirren -- that's as much as I can ask for in a film that isn't about time travel, aliens, or Marvel comic book heroes.
Food is something everyone has, old or young, rich or poor. When it is done well, it is uplifting, and even when it is done simply, it is fun. When it is done badly, it's a downright shame. The Kadam family loves their food. When a political riot burns down their family restaurant, killing the mother of the family, they leave Mumbai and travel to Europe, hoping to find a life less turbulent where they can live in peace, and perhaps open an Indian restaurant in which the son Hassan can build on the culinary talent his mother had nurtured.
By chance their van breaks down in a small town in France, and Papa falls in love with a decrepit abandoned restaurant. The problem? It's right across a tiny street from a one-Michelin-star restaurant which features fine French dining. Culture clash begins.
Make no mistake, this is a film for foodies, for people who love to cook and love to eat. My mother loathed cooking and couldn't wait to teach me and hand off her duties; she wouldn't have been at all interested in The Hundred-Foot Journey because there was no C-4 or spies or hot double-agents in it. On the other hand, I love cooking and find time in the kitchen soothing, and sometimes downright exciting when trying new techniques and recipes. I sank into this film like it was a memory-foam easy chair and just loved every beautifully designed frame of its two hours.
Helen Mirren is always a pleasure to watch, and Manish Dayal, Om Puri, and Charlotte Le Bon were refreshing actors, engaging the eye and ear.
Much as I enjoy seeing the Hulk pound someone's ass, or watching an embittered raccoon rig a bomb, sometimes fine dining is more to my liking than fast food. This was a good movie, and I know that I will get the DVD and watch it again and again.
I don't have a lot of time for writing reviews today, because the Editor has me painting the Piker Press offices. She says that if I think I can paint a picture with words, I ought to be able to paint a wall with a brush. I think there is dubious logic in that statement, however, Madame L'Editeur seems to subscribe to the philosophy of Benjamin Disraeli, the great 19th Century British politician and writer, who said, "Seeing much, suffering much, and painting much, are the three pillars of learning." At least that's what she said he said.
I didn't think I had seen any of director Lasse Hallstrom's other works, but when I looked at his filmography, I discovered that he directed Salmon Fishing in Yemen back in 2011, a quirky little delightful comedy starring Ewan McGregor. I liked that film. Like that film, The Hundred-Foot Journey is a nice story. It is a pleasant break from the blow 'em up, eye-searing techno-dazzlers that I tend to go see. This is a simple story about things that happen in life -- trying to make a living, eating, falling in love, and discovering what is really important in life. There are no alien monsters, no deadly plagues, no mutant monkeys, just French people, an Indian family, and food.
It is a beautiful film, technically well done, and well acted. Of course Helen Mirren is the anchor here, and her performance is first rate. Oscar worthy? Probably not. I suspect that this is not the kind of film that will draw a lot of Oscar attention, but that is not a criticism of the film. I would not belittle a romantic dinner with my wife just because it is not being filmed for a Food Network special. Some things are good and truly worthwhile just because they are, not because they are juried.
The Hundred-Foot Journey is relaxing, refreshing, and enjoyable, kind of like getting a good massage. It's worth the time and the money.