In the first minutes of this delectable dish of cultural- cuisine -clashes “Hassan’s” mother tells him food is about “ghosts”; redolent with pungent memories of cherished, deceased ancestors; proper preparation, flavoring, scents, like a séance, keep archaic recipes and their creators vibrantly, pungently alive.
Director Lasse Hallstrom (“Chocolat”) with producers Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey pair two icons of the film industry: Helen Mirren and Om Puri (Bollywood giant) as feisty adversaries, surrounded by the luscious landscape, in the South of France; Mirren is “Chef Madam Mallory” the intransigent warden of Michelin -starred Le Saule Pleureur” (The Weeping Willow”) aghast at the audacity of the Kadam family (immigrants from India) opening “Maison Mumbai” a hundred feet from her renown, effete French restaurant; “Hassan” (Manish Dayal), “Papa Kadam’s” (Puri) son, is touched with the madness and gift of culinary genius; open to experimentation, he is aided by Madame Mallory’s lovely sous -chef “Marguerite” (gamin, Charlotte Le Bon); the journey takes its banal, periodically saccharinely sweet, path towards fruition, satiation and requited romance.
Will “The Hundred-Foot Journey” fall into the hierarchy of classic “food flicks”: “Big Night”, “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”, “Eat Dream Man Woman”, “Ratatouille”, “Like Water for Chocolate” or this year’s stunning, sumptuous “Chef”, unlikely, but it does touch on the essence of the process; cooking and those, from the benign to the sublime, who magically transform the simplest of ingredients into delectable, intestinal delights, are alchemists, Merlin’s of gastronomical feats; cuisine is imbued with sensuality (“Tom Jones”,“Flashdance”), rejuvenation (“Babette’s Feast"), fantastical wizardry (“Kings of Pastry”); perpetually, the quickest highway to anyone’s heart (“Mostly Martha” German version).
“The Hundred-Foot Journey” is a piquant, simmering slice of reminiscence, a reminder of kitchens, cooks, recipes kept alive by resourceful, respectful redundancy.
THREE & 1/2 STARS!!!