Thursday, August 14, 2014

"The Hundred-Foot Journey": too bloated and saccharine for the subject matter, but nice food porn

The Hundred-Foot Journey”, directed by Lasse Hallstrom, based on a novel by Robert Marais, adapted screenplay by Steven Knight, is a big budget effort (with Disney, Amblin, Dreamworks, producers Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey), in a film that resembles Hallstrom’s 2000 film “Chocolat” for Miramax.  The film is long and lacks tension;  a foreign film in Hindi and French would have been more to the point.
The film starts with a long prologue (“Act 1”) where a family from Mumbai is driven out by politically-motivated violence, then moves to Britain, which doesn’t work out well.  Finally, it decides to move to France.  It’s up to the charismatic young cook Hassan (Manish Dayal) to support his pa (Om Puri) in getting into the country.

In a new town in the Provence area of southern France, they are met with resistance from a conventional 5-star restaurant across the street, with matron (Madame Mallory) Helen Mirren running the show. She buys up all the truffles and mushrooms on opening day for Papa.  But after one of her employees, out of misplaced French nationalism on Bastille Day, torches some of the restaurant, resulting in burned hands for Hassan, she fires the employee and starts to take heart for her competition, even taking Hassan under her own wing.
The last "act" of the film (in the three-part screenplay structure accepted as industry standard) takes place largely in Paris, where the restaurants have formed an alliance. 
Some heterosexual romance involving Hassan and the competition helps.  There are interesting little points along the way, such as when Mallory detects a wild mushroom as poisonous (you can’t safely eat the mushrooms that grow in your yard after a heavy rain) or when she tests Hassan with his omelet. There is plenty of "food porn" before the camera. 

The closing credits play some chamber music by A.H. Rahman, which rather sounds like the Metropolis Ensemble in NYC.  The credits say that some of the film was shot in New York State, and the Provence scenery looks a bit artificial, although there is a nice shot of the Lyon bullet train. 

The official site is here  (Dreamworks).
I saw the film late Thursday afternoon at the Angelika Mosaic in Fairfax, VA, before a fair crowd for a weekday.  The film showed in Auditorium 1, which has a curved screen.
Wikipedia attribution link for Toulouse street  I was there in 2001.  That’s the closest I’ve gotten to Provence. Second picture is "food porn" (eat your vegetables!) at the Arlington, VA county fair last weekend.  

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