With “The Hundred-Foot Journey”, Swedish director Lasse Hallström has created another Francophile gourmand- and gourmet style comedy à la “Chocolat” (2000), set in a small and charming French provincial town. The movie celebrated its premiere on August 22, 2014, in Austria and turns out to be a successful mélange of family entertainment, Bollywood-like romance and profound love melodrama between the ambitious Indian cook Hassan (Manish Dayal) and the French country girl Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon).
As expected, Helen Mirren, who has a property in South France and speaks French fluently, excels and impresses with an authentic performance as a dominant French cooking patron and chef de cuisine, Madame Mallory. The seemingly cold-blooded and feisty lady tries her best to prevent the Kadams, an Indian family who stranded in the town after an (un-)fortunate car accident, from opening an Indian eatery just 100 feet across the road and right opposite her classy gourmet restaurant whose exquisite reputation has earned her a Michelin star and a frequent visit of high-rank politicians.
What seems to be love at first sight between Hassan, the Kadam family’s greatest hope who learnt cooking from his late mother in India, and Marguerite, the innocent and more than well-behaved country girl, turns into bitter rivalry as he wins Madame Mallory’s trust in his skills after she tasted his roasted pigeon dish. She’s overwhelmed but too vain to admit that there’s a cook better than those in her team. The rivalry between the neighbors and culinary competitors reaches a dramatic climax when one of Madame Mallory’s employees decides to put the Indian restaurant on fire and smears a hateful nationalist slogan on the wall. The culprit is punished very soon – without giving the spectators much time to wonder who it was – and Madame Mallory loosens up and an almost romantic friendship develops between herself and the Kadam family’s determined and outspoken patron, Hassan’s father (Om Puri).
The story has its turning point as Hassan decides to move across the street and work for Madame Mallory, where he and Marguerite end up in their own little competition. Hassan wins his boss’s heart and fulfills her career dream of another Michelin star. Then, he gets a job offer from Paris, where he starts working in a high-class gourmet kitchen that resembles a laboratory rather than a restaurant. Something is missing, though, and the simple “taste of home” brings him back to the French little town where he is gladly welcomed by his family, Marguerite, and Madame Mallory.
“The Hundred-Foot Journey” (German: “Madame Mallory und der süße Duft von Curry”) is a very entertaining, sometimes touching and ironic comedy that will certainly fulfill all the expectations of those who have seen and liked “Chocolat” (2000), “Slumdog Millionnaire” (2008), or “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (2011). Helen Mirren is definitely the star in this movie as there is hardly any other actress who could have played the role of the arrogant and witty French lady better than her.
© Film review, Copyright by Stephan Haderer
IMDB (International Movie Data Base) – External Reviews
Austrian Premiere: “Mamade Mallory und der Duft von Curry” 22 August 2014