Megan’s Movie Night: The Hundred-Foot Journey

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Friday, August 31st. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.

Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.

Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Megan’s Movie Night. Sometimes a really great film on the culinary arts is a good choice, and today, Megan’s cooking up something I know, Mary, that you’ll appreciate.

REICHARD: I’m smelling the garam masala already.

EICHER: A film featuring Indian food!

MEGAN BASHAM, FILM CRITIC: If there’s one genre that simply doesn’t get enough love from Hollywood, it’s great movies about food. Outside of documentaries, we only get a good one once every few years. If only someone could find a way to work a superhero chef into the Marvel universe, then we could enjoy a couple every season.

This year, there’s been little to feast our eyes on save Paddington’s marmalade. So it’s a perfect time to revisit 2014’s heartwarming tale of restaurant rivalry, The Hundred Foot Journey.

A family from Mumbai emigrates to Europe to open an Indian restaurant. Unfortunately, the swoon-worthy town they find in the Pyrenees turns out to be home to some formidable competition.

AUDIO: Papa, it is a very sweet location, and the building is fine. But there is a problem that makes it impossible to open a restaurant there. There is already a restaurant. 100 feet.

Madame Mallory, the proprietress of the Michelin restaurant, is a first-rate food snob. She’s used to being the only game in town and doesn’t take kindly to the interlopers.

AUDIO: Yes, I understand you people like to keep everything in the family. If your food is anything like your music, I suggest you turn it down.

But the patriarch of the Kadam family didn’t travel halfway around the world to give up so easily.

AUDIO: Papa it isn’t like India where you stand by the gate and drag people in as they’re passing by. Come inside—you don’t want to look foolish.

But it turns out one generation’s foolishness is another’s wiliness. And despite the embarrassment it causes his children, it turns out Papa’s old world ways work just as well in the new one. Maison Mumbai is soon packing in the customers. And that’s when things really get hot in the two kitchens.

Along with the all the beautiful market produce, half the joy in the first half of the film is watching Helen Mirren drop an arch one-liner like only she can.

AUDIO: Them in the village say ugly things about them. Be careful you are not seen in sympathy with them. I am rarely seen in sympathy with anyone.

But her arrogance is well-matched with Papa’s stubbornness and soon an all-out arms race of ingredients ensues.

AUDIO: Where did you get this? She should pay her kitchen porters better. Then it would not be easy to bribe them…No, Papa this is not right. Well, she did it to us. I’ll do it to her. War.

Just when you’ve settled in waiting for one side to ultimately triumph, the plot turns toward some unexpectedly emotional places. While Madame Mallory’s resentment is purely professional, her careless words spark dangerous sentiments in others. Yet this isn’t a moralizing tale that merely demonizes the locals. Yes, the natives have something to learn from the newcomers. But the newcomers learn from their new land as well—as it should be in a melting pot.

Director Lasse Hallstrome also made 2000’s luscious ode to sweets, Chocolat. And while this will scandalize some cinema snobs as much as the Kadams’ Tandoori scandalizes Madame Mallory, between the two, I prefer Hundred Foot Journey.  

Not only does it have a more innocent spirit, it’s more grounded in reality, more generous to its characters and refrains from using ugly stereotypes about repressed Christians. Even better, it’s the rarest of rare unicorns among major studio releases—a non-animated PG movie set in the present time where multiple characters fall in love without sleeping together.

About the worst I can say of the film is a final, short third act feels somewhat unnecessary. But superfluous or not—we don’t mind another chance to gaze upon all the varieties of food, glorious food.

Seeing these sumptuous buffets reminds us much as anything can what a good God we have to give humanity such lavish gifts to enjoy. As soon as the movie’s over, I suggest you thank him by digging in.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Megan Basham.

(Photo/Walt Disney)

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