Anita Casey-Reed


"Food is memories," explains one of the characters in Lasse Hallstrom's The Hundred-Foot Journey. For Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal), Indian food brings him back to helping his mother in the kitchen, before the family was forced to flee political violence in their homeland and seek asylum in far-away France. For Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren in her Golden-Globe nominated performance), traditional haute cuisine keeps her close to the memory of her long-dead husband, as she works ceaselessly to maintain the strict standards the Michelin-starred restaurant they built together.

Once the Kadam family begins renovating the empty restaurant exactly one-hundred feet across the road from Madame Mallory's place, the two cultures (and their food) collide. Honestly, you probably have a pretty good idea of how this is going to play out: Will Hassan's boisterous widowed father (Om Puri) irritate the stuffy Madame Mallory no end? Will the kind-hearted French sous chef (Charlotte Le Bon) win the heart of the young Hassan as she lends him her cookbooks? Will a nearly-averted tragedy bring both sides together? Will people learn that fame and fortune aren't as important as the people in their lives? Check, check, check, AND.... check!

The Hundred-Foot Journey is a fun movie partially because you already have a good idea what's going to happen, which allows you to sit back and enjoy the show. On a purely visual level, the cinematography pops with vibrant colors -- the marketplace overflowing with fresh foods, the countryside changing with the seasons, the brilliant lights and decorations of the Kadam family's restaurant -- while the scenes surrounding the creation of food burst with energy and an obvious love for food. As to the acting, Dayal does a good job as the creative and ambitious Hassan, and holds his own in his scenes with Mirren. Let's be honest, however -- every time Helen Mirren's on screen the whole movie improves about 150%. As always, Mirran can bring life to even the most clichéd situations. She and Puri have a spark to their chemistry which is a nice reminder that romance is not just for the under-30 crowd.

Granted, towards the end it starts to feel like the film is dragging slightly as it has to go through a brief crisis for one of the characters before the inevitable happy ending, and there are some unanswered questions as to what some people actually DO all day since they always seem to be conveniently available whenever needed for the machinations of the plot, but these are fairly minor quibbles. If you are looking for a film to whet your appetite AND lift your spirits, The Hundred-Foot Journey is definitely worth a look. Rated PG, it's appropriate for the whole family.

Anita Casey-Reed is a member of the Cinema 100 Film Society and a volunteer for the Dakota Digital Film Festival. She lives in Bismarck with her husband and two children.