Important note: Despite its title this is not a documentary about the plight of centipedes. Just wanted to make that clear.
“The Hundred Foot Journey” is the story of an Indian family who tries to open an ethnic restaurant in the middle of the French countryside and how that impacts both the classic French restaurant across the street and their oldest son who has a keen gift for creating new and exciting tastes. With chefs like Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey mentioned in the producer credits you have to guess this recipe would come out tasting pretty nice right?
Well, at least it came out of the oven with a lot of warmth, I suppose. There really is a lot to like about The Hundred Foot Journey. First, Helen Mirren is always a joy. She just embodies every character she takes on with such a living, breathing authenticity that it’s hard not to get drawn into any story she’s a part of, and this time the cast around her were pretty good as well. Plus I’m loving this recent trend of international settings and movies. Anything that gets me out of my America centric tendencies is welcomed as far as I’m concerned. I truly loved the way the movie played off of both the French and Indian traditions and explored a culture clash I would have never have thought to consider. And honestly, what is it about cooking that makes it such a great metaphor for this stuff? Life may be like a box of chocolates but apparently its also like a good chicken curry, with just the right spices and new flavors to change up our traditions and patterns. Of course, I never have much liked Curry, but you get the idea. Honestly, I really did think the movie beautifully conveyed that message as well as a meaningful word on the importance of passion and ambition and how they battle one another as we attempt to find balance. There was something so very touching about the relationships and growth as shown through the simple seasonings of a restaurant’s dish that I actually found myself wishing this had been a true story. It just felt so true to the lives of these people and presented itself in such a simple way.
Of course that simplicity is also where the movie has it’s largest weakness. There just doesn’t seem to be much new here thematically or even structurally. So even if the movie feels good and plays the right heart strings you may not come away feeling like you heard anything new. Not only that, and I’ll call this the worst thing, the movie is too long. There is a third act here that almost feels out of place from the rest of the story and forced. It seems like it could have even been handled within the second act. The way it stands now the movie almost feels like it ends and the climax is resolved and then all of the sudden there is a new resolution needed that takes another half hour to get to. It just makes the movie feel a bit drawn out even if the emotion of it works in the end.
At the end of the day, The Hundred Foot Journey is a wonderful and heart felt story with some really good things to say and in an environment that feels new and fresh. But even at a new restaurant the meal is one we’ve had many times before and it takes a bit long to get to the table. Even so I’d still give it a B.