My review of The Hundred Foot Journey
The Hundred Foot Journey (executive produced by Oprah Winfrey
and Steven Spielberg) is part of the same flavorless, homogenized
pedigree of culinary tale that Chocolat (director Lasse
Hallström’s previous film) belongs to. And like every other film about
Western interaction with Indian cooking and culture (Bend It Like Beckham, Eat Pray Love,
and other similarly insipid fare), it inevitably fetishizes and
exotisizes. In other words, prepare to be really impressed by the use of
cardamom… in everything. Talk about a massive reduction.
The film is about a clash of culinary cultures: the spicy and hearty
Indian vs. French haute cuisine. Somewhere in the mix is also a homily
on “why can’t we all just get along?” The generally amiable vibes and
lush cinematography make the movie palatable enough, but don’t look for
too much zest or plot innovation.
Hassan meets Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), Madame’s sous-chef, and
professional and romantic sparks fly…or so we are to believe. For a film
dedicated to sensory pleasures, this is one tepid romantic concoction.
Their chemistry is so off that, even in the scene where Marguerite
tastes the French sauces that Hassan has made for her, all we are left
with is feeling nice yet terribly unfulfilled.
The Hundred Foot Journey attempts very earnestly to convey the
sheer magic of cooking to the viewer. It wants to remind us that
cooking is about memories and life experiences a lot more than it is
about pure gastronomic enjoyment. Luckily, the main characters of Papa
and Madame Mallory are incredibly compelling and watchable; the rest is
only so much trite fluff. The film attempts to tackle more serious
issues like ethnic tensions and discrimination against immigrants, but
lacks the chops to really address them more than merely as an aside.
And the cooking—well, for newbies, it is enjoyable enough, but for
serious gastro aficionados (notice I avoided using the dreaded
“foodie”), it will leave you groaning at the idea that Indian cooking is
“cool” because it involves sprinkling cardamom on everything, adding
fresh cilantro to an omelet, or even worse, making “curries.”
The Hundred Foot Journey is undoubtedly pleasant and,
mercifully, not too maudlin. It is not terribly thought-provoking or
interesting, but it is tasty enough of a morsel for you to savor at