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Published On: Fri, Aug 8th, 2014

‘The Hundred Foot Journey’ Review: Manish Dayal shines and ‘grows up’ in funny tale

The Hundred-Foot Journey is a film to inspire even those of us with the most intense aversions to spending time in the kitchen to take a shot and dabble a bit because the passion the young Hassan Kadam (played by Manish Dayal) is absolutely infectious. The film, based on the best-selling novel by Richard C. Morais, tells the story of an Indian family that moves to Europe and ends up in a small French village where they decide to open an Indian restaurant. Unexpectedly, the family finds itself in a comical, and at times horrible, battle with Madame Mallory who runs a classical French restaurant directly across the street.

THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEYThat’s the broadest way to describe the film; however, that basic synopsis doesn’t do the film justice. The various subplots that twist into the overall story create the unique flavor that makes experiencing this film a lovely evening at the movies. There is the story of immigrants driven from their home under terrible circumstances and trying to rebuild a life in a completely different culture. There is the story of a young man chasing his dreams even if they lead him far from his loved ones. The story of an arrogant business woman defending her restaurant’s status in the region evolves into a story of acceptance, transformation, friendship, love, and eventually letting go of her tightly-held reins. There is the story that reminds us of how terribly lonely it can be “at the top”, especially if others feel you got there by stepping on their backs. And, of course, there is a love story of two young people who end up together despite their perceived obstacles. I wonder if Morais’s plan was to incorporate 100 subplots into the book since I could continue down this road pointing out several other contributing stories.

Entering the theater, I was fully expecting to be dazzled by the always-remarkable Helen Mirren, but Dayal was a refreshing surprise. He began the film sweetly portraying a young cook hungry to develop his craft and took us on his special journey through accomplishment, success, isolation and loneliness to return to his loved ones as a confident, strong man knowing that his happiness lies in enjoying his talent under his own terms, not those the world expects of him. Dayal plays this character so naturally that I felt as if he had actually “grown up” during the making of the film.

The English-born Dame Helen Mirren once again shines in her portrayal of the stereotypically arrogant French restaurateur. Who knows if her French pronunciations were correct or not? But, then again, who cares?

To the non-French ear, it sounded completely convincing as she carried the French accent into her English lines as well.

The supporting cast helped round out the experience with each of them adding to their own subplots: the sous chef Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon) and Hassan’s Papa (Om Puri) experience both heart-lifting joy and heart-breaking sadness as we travel this journey with them.

The only negative aspect of the film is that it runs a long 2 hours and 2 minutes. I expect a movie to run 2 hours, but just as I thought we’d reached the end of the story and Hassan is going off to live out his dreams…..the film kept going…….for a good half hour more. This made me question if Screenplay Writer Steven Knight and Director Lasse Hallström might have tried to pack too much of the full book into the project. Upon learning that the paperback is only 272 pages, I don’t believe this is the case. Maybe the title just made me think it would be shorter, more like a hundred-foot walk across the street than an epic adventure spanning just over a year in the lives of these characters.

Regardless, I’m glad Oprah Winfrey approached Steven Spielberg with this project. The Hundred-Foot Journey is a great family film that reminds us the whole world is not centered around our lives in the US. Viewers under 12 might be challenged to stay engaged for the last half hour, but teenagers should enjoy this heart-warming film and parents should delight in the conversations that may follow.

Overall The Hundred Foot Journey receives 3 1/2 stars out of 5 stars

Guest Author: Debbie Sage

The-Hundred-Foot-Journey-movie poster

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