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The Hundred-Foot Journey

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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Charles de Foucauld: Born into an aristocratic family in Strasbourg, France, Charles was orphaned at the age of six, raised by his devout grandfather, rejected the Catholic faith as a teenager and joined the French army. Inheriting a great deal of money from his grandfather, Charles went to Algeria with his regiment, but not without his mistress, Mimi. <br /><br />When he declined to give her up, he was dismissed from the army. Still in Algeria when he left Mimi, Charles reenlisted in the army. Refused permission to make a scientific exploration of nearby Morocco, he resigned from the service. With the help of a Jewish rabbi, Charles disguised himself as a Jew and in 1883 began a one-year exploration that he recorded in a book that was well received. <br /><br />Inspired by the Jews and Muslims whom he met, Charles resumed the practice of his Catholic faith when he returned to France in 1886. He joined a Trappist monastery in Ardeche, France, and later transferred to one in Akbes, Syria. Leaving the monastery in 1897, Charles worked as gardener and sacristan for the Poor Clare nuns in Nazareth and later in Jerusalem. In 1901 he returned to France and was ordained a priest. <br /><br />Later that year Charles journeyed to Beni-Abbes, Morocco, intending to found a monastic religious community in North Africa that offered hospitality to Christians, Muslims, Jews, or people with no religion. He lived a peaceful, hidden life but attracted no companions. <br /><br />A former army comrade invited him to live among the Tuareg people in Algeria. Charles learned their language enough to write a Tuareg-French and French-Tuareg dictionary, and to translate the Gospels into Tuareg. In 1905 he came to Tamanrasset, where he lived the rest of his life. A two-volume collection of Charles' Tuareg poetry was published after his death. <br /><br />In early 1909 he visited France and established an association of laypeople who pledged to live by the Gospels. His return to Tamanrasset was welcomed by the Tuareg. In 1915 Charles wrote to Louis Massignon: “The love of God, the love for one’s neighbor…All religion is found there…How to get to that point? Not in a day since it is perfection itself: it is the goal we must always aim for, which we must unceasingly try to reach and that we will only attain in heaven.”   <br /><br />The outbreak of World War I led to attacks on the French in Algeria. Seized in a raid by another tribe, Charles and two French soldiers coming to visit him were shot to death on December 1, 1916. <br />Five religious congregations, associations, and spiritual institutes (Little Brothers of Jesus, Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Little Sisters of Jesus, Little Brothers of the Gospel and Little Sisters of the Gospel) draw inspiration from the peaceful, largely hidden, yet hospitable life that characterized Charles. He was beatified on November 13, 2005. American Catholic Blog You know, O my God, I have never desired anything but to love you, and I am ambitious for no other glory.

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