'Hundred-Foot Journey': What the Critics Are Saying

Based on Richard Morais' novel, Lasse Hallstrom's film touts Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey as producers and stars Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal and Charlotte Le Bon.

The Hundred-Foot Journey, out Friday, traces the delicious rivalry between two competing restaurants — a Michelin-star French spot and a family-run Indian restaurant — in the south of France, as the owners resolve cultural differences and realize individual identities through food.

Based on Richard Morais' 2011 novel, the Lasse Hallstrom film features Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey as producers and stars Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal and Charlotte Le Bon.

Dreamworks Pictures and Participant Media's $22 million culinary dramedy is expected to open in the $10 million range.

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Read what top critics are saying about The Hundred-Foot Journey:

The Hollywood Reporter's film critic Sheri Linden says in her review that it is "a movie designed to comfort, stimulating taste buds and little else," as "the film tracks a tension-free lesson in cultural exchange. ... But colorful locales and exotic spices can’t hide its essential blandness." Screenwriter Steven Knight's adaptation "resolves conflicts quickly and places morsels of platitude about the 'flavors of life' in characters’ mouths," and "Linus Sandgren's widescreen camerawork gives farm-to-table its due and showcases a storybook French countryside through the seasons, enhanced by digital effects."

Of the cast, she notes that the trajectory between young culinary ingenues Dayal and Le Bon "is as unsurprising as most everything else in the fairy-tale-tinged film, but Le Bon brings a nice touch of passive-aggressive competitiveness to her role," while "Mirren and Puri bring an effortless command to their roles."

The New York Times' A.O. Scott writes that despite Hallstrom's "easygoing blend of elegance and vulgarity that has been his signature at least since Chocolat," "The Hundred-Foot Journey is likely neither to pique your appetite nor to sate it, leaving you in a dyspeptic limbo, stuffed with false sentiment and forced whimsy and starved for real delight." The "culture clash gastro-rom-com [is] spooned out with extreme caution ... The French are fussy and snobbish, the Indians clannish and boisterous, and the movie is in such a hurry to avoid real conflict that it also avoids suspense, drama and emotional impact." Additionally, "the plot lurches and meanders, stapling tepid scenes of comedy to flimsy bits of melodrama with musical passages and repetitive long shots of the pretty countryside." And of the kitchen montages, "this film is not in love with food; it is commercially invested in the idea that food is something people think they love."

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On the other hand, San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle says Hallstrom is "at his best here" as "this is one of those rare movies that gets better as it goes along. It unfolds, one incident into the next, in what feels like a methodical pace, until very soon everything about it feels lived in, and realized." The film "is about food and life, but not in the typical way of movies that dreamily 'celebrate' both and make you want to throw up. The film isn't starry-eyed about food, but intelligent about it. It has ideas about food, which it does not spell out, but which are implicit. The movie extols the respective boldness and subtleties of traditional Indian and traditional French cuisine. ... By the time The Hundred-Foot Journey ends, it has achieved an unexpected and rather powerful cumulative impact."

The Washington Post's Mark Jenkins also calls the film "neither rich nor spicy — this rom-com-drama is merely amiable, even when the two central couples pretend to be bristlingly incompatible." Onscreen, "perhaps seeking to retain something of the book’s rhythm, Knight and Hallstrom let a very simple story meander for two hours and include episodes that serve no dramatic purpose." One high note: "As the town’s gourmet mayor, Michel Blanc is a big pleasure in a small role."

Time's Richard Corliss pleasantly praises the film's visuals: "The food, traditional French cuisine or the livelier Indian masala, looks delicious. ... If the poetry of this Franco-Indian alliance gets lost in translation, the visuals sing ecstasy in any language. Sandgren, fresh from making the actors in American Hustle look fabulously tatty, brings radiance not just to each morsel of food but also to the dewy closeups of Dayal and Le Bon, ... the film is eager to seem good enough to eat."

Email: Ashley.Lee@THR.com
Twitter: @cashleelee