★ | The Hundred Foot Journey
A more apt title for this preposterous and painfully unfunny comedy would be ‘Lost in Translation’. Based on a best-selling novel by Richard C. Morais this new movie from the Oscar-nominated king of syrupy schmaltz Lasse Hallstrom (Cider House Rules & Chocolat) and produced by Oprah Winfrey and Stephen Spielberg must have seemed like a fantastic idea on paper as they managed to persuade none other than Oscar Winner Helen Mirren to be their very uncomfortable looking star. After filming this very inane and somewhat patronising piece she could only have only ended up asking the same question as we do now i.e. whatever possessed her!
The story is of an Indian family who has to leave Mumbai in a hurry when their restaurant is destroyed and the matriarch is killed after a political uprising. They seek asylum in London and settle in a cramped home next to Heathrow Airport right under the flight path. However it’s not the fact that they can almost touch the planes as they land that drives them out, but the cold and damp English climate and they set off in a dilapidated camper van to warmer climes of France.
When their van breaks down outside Saint-Antonin-Noble-Vala small picturesque one-street village in the middle of nowhere, Father spies an empty restaurant for sale that he deems will be perfect for the family to establish their new Indian Restaurant. This village evidently only has one other eating establishment (other than the café where everyone has breakfast) and this is smack opposite their new venue. It is in fact just a hundred feet from their front door. This very popular fine dining establishment, which possesses a coveted Michelin star, and a fancy Chef, is run by a chauffeured driven Grand Dame who, for some inexplicable reason, is paranoid about the new competition from a fast-food Indian eatery run by a cook.
The rivalry is petty and too silly for words and is as ridiculous as the silly French accent of the English speaking Madame Mallory. After a chance encounter, Hassan the Indian cook falls in love with Marguerite a sous chef who works for Madame and she encourages him to read a recipe book about fine French cuisine. Then after a few attempts at re-creating classic dishes and before you can say Nigella Lawson he is a cordon-bleu chef and immediately deserts his family to work for Madame herself. Next stop for him is Paris and an even fancier restaurant where as Chef de Cuisine he becomes an overnight sensation winning more Michelin stars with easy.
However, fame and success isn’t everything for Hassan and as he misses his family he hurries back to Madame‘s country restaurant where he can get the taste of both Marguerite and fresh local produce once again.
This rather innocuous tale is an excruciating 2 hours long and has no redeeming features other than the location of the small town, and the rather scrumptious food.