Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal) is a culinary ingénue with the gastronomic equivalent of perfect pitch. Displaced from their native India, the Kadam family, led by Papa (Om Puri), settles in the quaint village of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val in the south of France. Filled with charm, it is both picturesque and elegant – the ideal place to settle down and open an Indian restaurant, the Maison Mumbai. That is, until the chilly chef proprietress of Le Saule Pleureur, a Michelin starred, classical French restaurant run by Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren), gets wind of it. Her icy protests against the new Indian restaurant a hundred feet from her own escalate to all out war between the two establishments – until Hassan's passion for French haute cuisine and for Mme. Mallory's enchanting sous chef, Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), combine with his mysteriously delicious talent to weave magic between their two cultures and imbue Saint-Antonin with the flavors of life that even Mme. Mallory cannot ignore. At first Mme. Mallory's culinary rival, she eventually recognizes Hassan's gift as a chef and takes him under her wing.
With such an impressive crew and cast, you'd assume that 'The Hundred-Foot Journey' would be oozing awards during the upcoming award season. It remains to be seen still, but rest assured this little film about family and food actually has all of the right ingredients for a genuinely charming movie, which should appeal to a broad audience. While it may not have robots, dinosaurs, zombies, or zombie dinosaurs with robotic legs, this moving story should still satisfy you, leaving a warm and delicious after taste for days on end.
Produced by Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey, and written by Steven Knight ('Locke', 'Eastern Promises'), which was based on the Richard C. Morais novel of the same name, and directed by Lasse Hallstrom ('What's Eating Gilbert Grape', 'My Life As A Dog', 'Chocolat', and 'The Cider House Rules'), 'The Hundred-Foot Journey' doesn't only have an incredible story behind its wall, but it also looks amazing on a technical level, with gorgeous shots of France and the Netherlands.
The film focuses on the Kadam family live in India and run a restaurant. Due to their political and religious beliefs, their restaurant is attacked, forcing the family to leave their home country. They arrive in France without a plan, and as fate would have it, run into a lovely woman named Margeuerite (Charlotte Le Bon), who helps them find a place to stay. The head of the Kadam family, Papa (Om Puri), decides to open up a restaurant in the tiny French village they land in with his culinary master of a son Hassan (Manish Dayal).
The place is in obvious need of repair, but that is the least of their troubles. You see, their new restaurant, which they are calling Maison Mumbai, is directly across the street from the Michelin starred restaurant 'Le Saule Pleureur' (The Weeping Willow). In fact it is only 100 feet across the street, hence the title of the film. The Weeping Willow is run by Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren), and she is not too happy that another restaurant is opening across from hers, threatening her shot at another Michelin star. And a war of sorts ensues between both restaurants, as they both try to sabotage the other, whether it pull pranks or buy up all the food in the local area.
There is a good amount of comedy here, but also some heartfelt drama between family members and their romances with new people. We see each character transform into a better person and achieve their goals and dreams with the help of their family. Mirren plays Madame Mallory perfectly here. She comes across as abrasive, but she shows something deep down where you still root for her. There is a very genuine quality to her. Dayal, Le Bon, and Puri all turn in charming and solid performances as well here.
This is an easy going film with flashes of heart break. Those heartbreaking moments really pull the heartstrings, and not in a cheesy way either. You really grow a fondness for these characters, and allows you to easily relate to their successes and failures. 'The Hundred-Foot Journey' lacks the CG explosions and monsters, but makes up for it with its excellent performances and brilliant camerawork.
'The Hundred-Foot Journey' comes with an excellent 1080p HD transfer presented in 2.39:1 aspect ratio. This films was shot with 35mm film, which is something rare today. The picture as a whole looks great. The use of the 35mm give the image a very natural and filmic look, rather than an image that looks like it has been through the digital car wash. The detail is fairly vivid and sharp, particularly in the closeups, which reveal individual hairs, wrinkles, and makeup work.
The wider shots are beautiful with amazing landscapes of the south of France, but these scenes look a bit softer, which is natural to the source. Colors simply pop of screen and shine. Each color is well saturated and looks natural. The greens, reds, browns and yellows look magnificent. The black levels are deep and inky and the skin tones are very organic. There were no issues with any banding, aliasing or video noise to speak of, leaving this video presentation with top marks.
This release comes with a great lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix along with a French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks. The DTS-HD mix is the way to go here. Without being a big action movie, you might not expect a fully immersive soundtrack, but you'd be wrong in that assumption. 'The Hundred-Foot Journey' is lively, robust and full sound-wise. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow, and free of any pops, cracks, or hissing.
The ambient noises and sound effects in the restaurants, nature, and people chattering sound excellent and puts you in the center of the restaurant kitchen and dining room. You'll feel like you're really there. A.R. Rahman's score is brilliant and always adds to each scene that emotional and comedy weight without drowning out any of the dialogue or sound effects. The LFE is excellent and the dynamic range is very wide, leaving this audio track with solid marks.
'The Hundred-Foot Journey' With Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey (HD, 12 Mins.) - Spielberg and Winfrey sit down and discuss their involvement in this project. These two haven't worked together since 'The Color Purple', and it was such a delight to listen to them.
The Recipe, The Ingredients, The Journey (HD, 16 Mins.) - This is your basic behind the scenes and making of documentary that features interviews with the cast and crew who discuss what went on during production. They discuss the food, the characters, the themes, and how they used some of the visual effects. Worth the watch if you enjoyed the film.
On Set With Oprah Winfrey (HD, 4 Mins.) - This odd little feature shows us a brief time with Oprah on location during the filming and how involved she was with the production.
Coconut Chicken (HD, 5 Mins.) - Hungry after watching this film? Well here you get a video tutorial on how to make one of the dishes from the film with the head chef of movie.
I know some of you are thinking this should have received a bad review, but I'm here to say that 'The Hundred-Foot Journey' is actually quite a great film. The story, characters, funny moments, and drama are all done to perfection. And the food had my mouth watering. The video and audio presentations are both excellent here and the few extras are all worth watching. Highly recommended!