Making the Grades
If watching Julie & Julia made you hungry, then The Hundred-Foot Journey will have you salivating. The beautiful cinematography in this culinary drama makes breaking eggs look like a work of art.
For Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren), the gelid owner of a celebrated restaurant in the south of France, food is art. Her classically trained staff serves some of the finest food in the country. Even the French president dines in her Michelin-starred establishment. So you can understand her disdain when Indian immigrants take up residence in an abandoned cafe directly across the street and precede to open their own eatery. The lights, music and smell of curry are enough to make Madame Mallory confront the town’s mayor (Michel Blanc) with demands to invoke obscure city bylaws.
After being driven from their homeland, the Kadam family is only looking for a place to start over. When their van’s brakes go out in the small town, Papa Kadam (Om Puri) takes it as a sign. And when he discovers the vacant restaurant, he is sure this is where his family is meant to be.
But changing people’s eating habits isn’t easy. Luckily, Papa’s son Hassan (Manish Dayal) is a gifted cook who learned all about food preparation from his mother. Mixing exotic spices with fresh produce and meats, he creates colorful and tantalizing dishes. Yet enticing patrons to try the Indian cuisine takes some tactical efforts on the part of Papa and his other children (Amit Shah, Farzana Dua Elahe, Dillon Mitra and Aria Pandya)—especially when Madame Mallory declares war on her neighbors.
While food takes a starring role in this film, the real story focuses on facing prejudice. When Madame Mallory finally allows herself to taste one of Hassan’s creations, she instantly recognizes his talent. Luring him across the street and into her kitchen isn’t as altruistic as it appears; instead it is the first step in breaking down barriers between the battling restaurateurs.
The film, which includes a handful of mild profanities, a couple of sensual moments and some social drinking, also depicts the importance of family. The Kadams face an uncertain future. As a group, they don’t always agree on things. And the children are often embarrassed by their father’s approach to getting the best price for something. But still they stick together.
Understanding French will add to what you get out of this film. But don’t worry if you don’t speak the language. The majority of the script is in English. And while children and young teens likely won’t have a taste for this script, the charming storyline, strong performances and dash of humor make The Hundred-Foot Journey well worth the trip to a nearby theater.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Hundred-Foot Journey.
While looking for a new home, Papa says home is where your family is. Do you agree? What do you think makes a place a home?
How do cultures clash in this movie? How do Papa’s children respond when he begins to barter with shop owners and others? How does Papa define frugal and cheap? In what other ways does the Kadam family’s culture stand out in their new community?
Why is the mayor hesitant to come down too hard on either side of the battle between the restaurateurs? How does the film depict the idea of “meeting in the middle”?
How does Hasan’s new job in Paris take him away from his culinary roots? How does that impact the way he feels about life? How is cooking a sensory experience?