Overview: Settling in the French provence, an Indian family establishes a restaurant and a rivalry ensues with a classy restaurateur across the street. Walt Disney Studios, 2014, Rated PG, 122 minutes.
Amuse-Gueule, to Entertain the Mouth: To say the culinary dishes did not enhance this film is a lie, a lie I cannot tell. Capturing food in its final state, its immaculate plated stage, is merely one of the moments we are too preoccupied with. As a novice foodie, I appreciate director Lasse Hallström’s perspective spanning from the origins of the ingredients, an open-air market or freshly gathered among the brush. To the elaborate dance of knives, the fusing of flavors in a bowl, and the unleashing of aromas from a fiery stove. Lastly, the instant the food grazes the lips, fills the mouth, and explodes on the tongue. All it takes is one taste.
La Famille et le Coeur, the Family and the Heart: For many families, including my own, food is central to reinforcing the family ties because food is memories. Memories stored in an edible form. Papa (Om Puri) is the patriarch of the Indian family, with generations of the restaurant business fueling his whims and intuitions to purchase an establishment and open Maison Mumbai. The theme of family remains strong throughout the entirety of the film– in the tragedies they endure, in the battles they raise their arms against, and in the delight of successes. One of Papa’s sons, Hassan; the gifted chef in the family encounters opportunities that would make his mother proud. Despite these successes, he is mindful of their ceaseless support, even when his life is altered immensely.
La Culture et la Langue, Culture and Language: I understand films for an American audience merit English be the spoken language. Perhaps I am being difficult and my expectations of a possible real-life story is laughable. However, the likelihood that a small, French town in the countryside has strong English-speaking citizens and the newly transplanted Indian man, who was unaware of his final point in travel so happens to have conversational French skills and flawless English skills? That seems a bit of a stretch to me, and subtitles would have enhanced the authenticity this film was aiming for. As much as I appreciate the movie’s focus on Papa’s family, the sense of French xenophobia is prevalent throughout. Only with the tutelage of Madame Mallory in classical, French cooking was Hassan able to elevate his techniques. An additional shortfall is the lack of development of Hassan’s love interest, Marguerite, and the reinforcement of gender stereotypes. Yes, success can be yours, but only if you are a man?
Final Thoughts: The Hundred-Foot Journey offers moments of comedic relief and a sweet (yet not overbearingly so) romance, but shallow dramatic developments and non-progressive views.