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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Hundred-Foot Journey

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Om Puri, Manish Dayal and Helen Mirren star in a scene from the movie "The Hundred-Foot Journey."
Like an airy souffle, director Lasse Hallstrom's food-themed romantic fantasy "The Hundred-Foot Journey" (Disney) has an elegant appearance and a charming taste, but not much substance.

Still, there's little to offend on any level in this adaptation of the best-selling novel by Richard C. Morais. So parents will probably find it acceptable for mature adolescents.

Picturesque, stately and thoroughly unrealistic, this is the story of the Kadam family, an Indian clan of restaurateurs. When political unrest results in the torching of their subcontinental establishment, they seek refuge in Europe, eventually settling -- more or less by chance -- in a small town in the French countryside. Cue the lush sunsets and Bastille Day fireworks.

The otherwise unnamed Papa Kadam (Om Puri) nurtures dreams of winning the local populace over to curry and cardamom. But the building in which he chooses to set up shop is directly across the road from the region's most venerable eatery, a Michelin-starred haven of the rich and famous presided over by the formidable Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren).

At first, Madame Mallory has nothing but contempt for her new neighbors, and resorts to dirty tricks to try to undermine them. Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), one of Madame's sous chefs, by contrast, adopts a more welcoming attitude once she connects -- both professionally and personally -- with Hassan (Manish Dayal), the principal cook among Papa's progeny.

Recognizing that Hassan is prodigiously gifted, Marguerite gives him classic French cookbooks to help him expand his culinary horizons. Thus begins his spectacular rise into the stratosphere of haute cuisine.

As Madame Mallory and Papa continue to butt heads, and the divergent cultures they represent clash more generally, Marguerite and Hassan become the Romeo and Juliet of their mildly warring factions. But Hassan's destiny beckons from the direction of Paris.

Young love, lavish foodstuffs, a conflicted protagonist. ... As they say in New Delhi, what's not to like?

Screenwriter Steven Knight's mostly restrained dialogue -- often pleasingly urbane, now and then cliched -- veers into vulgarity only once by our count. And a somewhat suggestive scene finds Hassan, who was last glimpsed passionately kissing Marguerite, rearranging his clothes as the two emerge from the kitchen setting of their clutch.

Today's teens, need it be said, will not be shocked by such proceedings. However, the descent of an arsonist rabble on the Kadam's original place of business -- an incident with fatal consequences -- would likely prove a traumatic sight for real youngsters.

Characters occasionally mention "the gods" and refer, in passing, to their control of human affairs. But this amounts to no more than a turn of phrase and will leave even the impressionable unaffected.

Given all the onscreen feasting, on the other hand, mature viewers would be well advised to make reservations before they buy their movie tickets.

The film contains scenes of mob violence, implications of an intimate encounter and a single crude term. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Josephine Bakhita: For many years, Josephine Bakhita was a slave but her spirit was always free and eventually that spirit prevailed. 
<p>Born in Olgossa in the Darfur region of southern Sudan, Josephine was kidnapped at the age of seven, sold into slavery and given the name Bakhita, which means <i>fortunate</i>. She was re-sold several times, finally in 1883 to Callisto Legnani, Italian consul in Khartoum, Sudan. </p><p>Two years later he took Josephine to Italy and gave her to his friend Augusto Michieli. Bakhita became babysitter to Mimmina Michieli, whom she accompanied to Venice's Institute of the Catechumens, run by the Canossian Sisters. While Mimmina was being instructed, Josephine felt drawn to the Catholic Church. She was baptized and confirmed in 1890, taking the name Josephine. </p><p>When the Michielis returned from Africa and wanted to take Mimmina and Josephine back with them, the future saint refused to go. During the ensuing court case, the Canossian sisters and the patriarch of Venice intervened on Josephine's behalf. The judge concluded that since slavery was illegal in Italy, she had actually been free since 1885. </p><p>Josephine entered the Institute of St. Magdalene of Canossa in 1893 and made her profession three years later. In 1902, she was transferred to the city of Schio (northeast of Verona), where she assisted her religious community through cooking, sewing, embroidery and welcoming visitors at the door. She soon became well loved by the children attending the sisters' school and the local citizens. She once said, "Be good, love the Lord, pray for those who do not know Him. What a great grace it is to know God!" </p><p>The first steps toward her beatification began in 1959. She was beatified in 1992 and canonized eight years later.</p> American Catholic Blog St. Paul talks about the Christian life as a race, and encourages us to run so as to win. So it’s not just OK, it’s commanded to be competitive, to strive to excel. But true greatness consists in sharing in the sacrificial love of Christ, who comes to serve rather than to be served. That means that this race St. Paul is talking about is a race to the bottom.

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