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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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Katharine Drexel: If your father is an international banker and you ride in a private railroad car, you are not likely to be drawn into a life of voluntary poverty. But if your mother opens your home to the poor three days each week and your father spends half an hour each evening in prayer, it is not impossible that you will devote your life to the poor and give away millions of dollars. Katharine Drexel did that. 
<p>She was born in Philadelphia in 1858. She had an excellent education and traveled widely. As a rich girl, she had a grand debut into society. But when she nursed her stepmother through a three-year terminal illness, she saw that all the Drexel money could not buy safety from pain or death, and her life took a profound turn. </p><p>She had always been interested in the plight of the Indians, having been appalled by what she read in Helen Hunt Jackson’s <i>A Century of Dishonor</i>. While on a European tour, she met Pope Leo XIII and asked him to send more missionaries to Wyoming for her friend Bishop James O’Connor. The pope replied, “Why don’t you become a missionary?” His answer shocked her into considering new possibilities. </p><p>Back home, Katharine visited the Dakotas, met the Sioux leader Red Cloud and began her systematic aid to Indian missions. </p><p>She could easily have married. But after much discussion with Bishop O’Connor, she wrote in 1889, “The feast of St. Joseph brought me the grace to give the remainder of my life to the Indians and the Colored.” Newspaper headlines screamed “Gives Up Seven Million!” </p><p>After three and a half years of training, she and her first band of nuns (Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored) opened a boarding school in Santa Fe. A string of foundations followed. By 1942 she had a system of black Catholic schools in 13 states, plus 40 mission centers and 23 rural schools. Segregationists harassed her work, even burning a school in Pennsylvania. In all, she established 50 missions for Indians in 16 states. </p><p>Two saints met when Katharine was advised by Mother Cabrini about the “politics” of getting her Order’s Rule approved in Rome. Her crowning achievement was the founding of Xavier University in New Orleans, the first Catholic university in the United States for African Americans. </p><p>At 77, she suffered a heart attack and was forced to retire. Apparently her life was over. But now came almost 20 years of quiet, intense prayer from a small room overlooking the sanctuary. Small notebooks and slips of paper record her various prayers, ceaseless aspirations and meditation. She died at 96 and was canonized in 2000.</p> American Catholic Blog Our task during these forty days is to examine our lives in light of God’s Word and see where we’ve allowed darkness to creep in, where we’ve taken the bait of the diabolical fisher of men. It’s time to use the sword of the Spirit to cut through his web of deception, to free ourselves from the net that holds us as prey.


 
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