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The Hundred-Foot Journey ***

With Helen Mirren’s The Hundred-Foot Journey following hot on the heels of Jon Favreau’s Chef, it seems that the cinema gods are smiling on foodies this season!
Manish Dayal plays Hassan Kadam – a culinary ingénue with the gastronomic equivalent of perfect pitch. Displaced from his native India along with the rest of the Kadam family, led by Papa (Om Puri), Hassan and co settle 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. That is, until the chilly chef proprietress of the Michelin-starred, classical French restaurant across the street – Madame Mallory (Mirren) – gets wind of it. Poor boy discovers talent and makes it big before remembering his roots…
In terms of story, there’s little here we haven’t seen before. And, along the way, there are hiccups. But, by the time the end credits rolled, I was largely won over. While I look forward to Helen Mirren movies as much as the next person, I’ll admit that my high hopes took a dip early in the movie when the weakly executed house fire leads into a series of ‘cute’ family moments, that, for me at least, simply try too hard to gain your sympathy.
Once the cooking begins and Mirren arrives on the scene, things improve greatly. The movie’s passion for food is undeniable, and its use of location is just delightful. Along with tackling migration issues, it goes on to deal with several other topics and, to be honest, spreads itself a little too thin. But even if it does get scrappy late on, it manages to get back on track for a decent enough finale that leaves a pleasing aftertaste. It’s not the finest family drama ever made, but it is amiable, with a good cast (all the leads are strong) and a strong sense of finding the joy in the everyday. A movie you could take your kids, your parents and your grandparents to… provided you stop for a curry afterwards!

Starring: Helen Mirren, Manish Dayal, Om Puri
Director: Lasse Hallström

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