A picturesque, well-acted comedy about the culinary education of a young Indian cook who emigrates to the south of France, The Hundred-Foot Journey is elevated comfort food. The flavors aren’t complex, but it’s nourishing nonetheless.
The title refers to the distance that separates two restaurants in a sleepy village called Lumière. On one side of the road, the imperious Madame Mallory (Mirren) prepares classical French dishes that have earned her restaurant a coveted Michelin star. On the other side of the road is the scrappy upstart Maison Mumbai, run by the Kadam family, who left India under tragic circumstances (improbably related in an early info-dump to a customs officer). Papa Kadam (Puri) is an imp with a spiritual bent and Maison Mumbai’s indefatigable impresario, while his twentysomething son Hassan (Dayal), working from his late mother’s recipes, makes enough magic happen in the kitchen to jangle Madame Mallory’s nerves. The two restaurants go to war. But the sides are not so easily drawn: Seduced by the haute cuisine wonders of béchamel and velouté, Hassan – Papa’s first lieutenant – is considering desertion.
Steven Knight’s sweet, slack script (adapted from the novel by Richard C. Morais) is a startling volte-face from his taut-muscled Locke, a spring sleeper: The latter felt like real life on its very worst day, while The Hundred-Foot Journey feasts on its own movieness, with wisecracking one-liners, sunny aphorisms, and culinary mysticisms care-wrapped in Lasse Hallström’s sun-flare framing of pretty people and pretty landscapes. The food looks pretty damn tasty, too.