Hundred-Foot Journey, The
PG
Entertainment: +4
Acceptability: +3

Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal. Charlotte Le Bon. Delightful drama. Written by Steven Knight. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom.

FILM SYNOPSIS: A migrant family from India defiantly opens a restaurant across the street from a 4-star eatery. There is a clash between the proprietress of the celebrated French restaurant and the new neighbors, but once she gets a bite of their food, well, relationships build.

PREVIEW REVIEW: I love films about the preparation of food and the relationships that develop between the characters who prepare the sumptuous meals. (I’ve listed a few below.) But like that magical omelet made in the film that awakens all the taste buds in the diner, not one single ingredient must be left out of the outcome is disappointing. Sadly for me, this movie, although sumptuous to look at, lacks that one ingredient that would make it a satisfying feast.

It has a glossy, over-produced look and feel (Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg produced), and while it attempts to touch us, there’s a superficial, filmmaking-by-numbers style that lacks a dramatic punch. Director Lasse Hallstrom (Chocolat, The Cider House Rules), either shows a contempt for religious matters in his films or, as in this case, ignores them altogether. Perhaps that’s the missing spice.

The performances, the views of the French locales, positive depiction of family, the fact that it is a simple film without any raunchy or obscene scenes, make for a fun, engrossing film. But I come back to that missing spiritual component. As the pictorial preparation of food in film can be seen as a metaphor for life, it lacks that one ingredient that feeds the soul. View Babette’s Feast and you’ll find sense missing element.

That said, it’s a good film. I was hoping for a great one, but it’s refreshing to find a summer theatrical release where no one wears a cape.

DVD additions: Eat Drink Man Woman. From 1994, this delightful family drama from Ang Lee concerns a senior chef who lives with his three grown daughters; the middle one finds her future plans affected by unexpected events and the life changes of the other household members. On his day off, he makes them all a gourmet meal. I was told not to see this film hungry, so I bought a box of dim sum from a nearby Chinese restaurant and snuck it past the ticket taker. If was a matinee, in the middle of the week and it was a foreign film, I thought for sure it wouldn’t trouble anyone. But it turned out to be a full house. Each time the film’s chef made a meal, I’d open the box and eat a dim sum. I’m sure the rest of the movie patrons must have thought, “Man, this is a great movie, I can even smell it!”

Tortilla Soup. A remake of Eat Drink Man Woman, with a Hispanic family. Good film.

Julie & Julia. Starring Meryl Streep as Julia Child and Amy Adams as a housewife bent on making 350 great Julia Child recipes. If I may paraphrase the eloquent line from a love-stricken Renee Zellweger in Jerry Maguire, “You had me at butter.” Both Julie and Julia have found reason in life through the art of cooking. Indeed, the story can be seen as a metaphor for living. And if all the ingredients are lovingly and precisely blended together, a film can satisfy like a fine soufflé. Such is the case here. Food becomes a character in the film and its masterful presentation a simile for life’s struggles and conquests. Please read the full review.

Babette’s Feast. This is the best of them. In the 1987 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film, Babette’s Feast tells the story of a homeless French woman taken in by two religiously devout Danish sisters. The gentle sisters are heading up their conservative church, long ago started by their father. But it is a dying church, filled with members who have developed feuds among one another. It is winter in this cold, barren community. The imagery reflects their dying church, because the members have left Christ out of their pious beliefs. Well, it turns out that the French woman was once a famous chef. She has hidden her talents, subjecting herself as a housekeeper for the two sisters. Then one day she discovers that she has won a lottery back in her homeland. When the money arrives, she shares her good fortune in a most lavish manner. She asks the sisters if she can provide a special meal for an upcoming church celebration. The sisters hesitantly agree. When the food arrives from far-off regions, consisting of epicurean delights such as turtles for turtle soup and quail and other gourmet treats these simple people are unfamiliar with, the sisters are horrified. The church members are afraid of what they are getting themselves into. But rather than be impolite, they choose to pray over it and decide that they will get through this ordeal. They’ll eat it, but they just won’t enjoy it. Then, as each course is served with a matching wine, the guests at the feast discover tastes and aromas that ignite the palate, aided by the wine, which causes them to warm up and reunite their friendships. Based on a short story by Isak Dinessen, it is a beautiful tale of devotion and sacrifice, as well as a healing parable where quarreling friends and acquaintances are brought together once they shed their pious austerity. The film urges us to put our faith into action. Read the full review.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Distributor: DreamWorks

Summary
Crude Language: None
Obscene Language: One use of the s-word.
Profanity: None
Violence: A car accident and vandals burn a restaurant, with one man getting badly burned and a woman dying in the fire.
Sexual Intercourse: A passionate kiss.
Nudity: None
Homosexual Conduct: None
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: None
Drug Abuse: Very little drinking.
Other: None
Running Time: 122 minutes
Intended Audience: Anyone who eats

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