Adaptation Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray Review Du Jour: The Hundred-Foot Journey

December 7, 2014Ben Mk


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The spice of life...

Even though they're two of the biggest names in the entertainment industry, it's been nearly three decades since Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg last worked together. Their first collaboration was in 1985, and the film was Spielberg's adaptation of Alice Walker's celebrated novel, "The Color Purple". Since then, you could say the pair have been biding their time, waiting for the right project to come along — and they couldn't have chosen better than author Richard C. Morais' "The Hundred-Foot Journey", a heartfelt story about people from different cultures finding the courage to overcome prejudice and expand their horizons.

   

The Film Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal) grew up in Mumbai, learning the art of cooking from his mother, Akhiya (Juhi Chawla). But when a fire destroys the family restaurant and claims his mother's life, his father (Om Puri) packs up their belongings and takes him, his two brothers, Mansur (Amit Shah) and Mukhthar (Dillon Mitra) , and his sisters, Mahira (Farzana Dua Elahe) and Aisha (Aria Pandya), to Europe, to start life anew. After an unsuccessful year in London, they decide to try their luck in France, where a faulty set of brakes strands them in the picturesque town of St. Antonin.

It's there that they meet Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), who, unbeknownst to them, is a sous chef at Le Saule Pleureur, a Michelin star restaurant owned and operated by the headstrong Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren). Likewise, Marguerite is equally unaware of Hassan's impressive skills as a chef when she helps the family find shelter after coming upon their immobilized vehicle. All of them, however, are surprised the next morning, when Hassan's father decides to buy the abandoned property across the way from Le Saule Pleureur and turn it into the town's first Indian restaurant, Maison Mumbai.

So begins a war of epic culinary proportions between the two establishments. But when one of Madame Mallory's kitchen staff takes the competition too far, she has an abrupt change of heart, going from instigator to mentor, adversary to friend. Up until that point, the movie plays more or less like a lighthearted comedy, with a touch of romance thrown in. After the film's turning point, though, director Lasse Hallström focuses more on the story's dramatic aspects, as Madame Mallory takes Hassan under her wing, and Hassan finds his relationship with Marguerite complicated by their mutual interests and shared career goals.

Ultimately, the direction the story takes is fairly predictable, but that doesn't make the journey any less enjoyable. Even Winfrey and Spielberg say as much in the disc's special features, comparing the film to more classic Hollywood fare. And in that regard, the movie truly excels. Screenwriter Steven Knight's ability to draw out the emotion from a familiar narrative, in combination with the actors' abilities to deliver his words with conviction, is what gives the film its heart. For though the film tackles such subjects as racism and prejudice, it never feels heavy-handed or clichéd. That's especially true considering the winningly sincere performances brought to the screen by Puri, Mirren, Dayal and Le Bon, which are capable of uplifting even the most of cynical hearts.

Audio/Visual Fidelity The Hundred-Foot Journey is served up on Blu-ray with an A/V presentation that's quite delectable indeed. From the many earthen textures found in and around St. Antonin to the closeups of dishes like raw cepe ravioli, pigeon with truffles and boeuf bourguignon, cinematographer Linus Sandgren's color palette is warm and inviting, with fine detail prevalent throughout. Bolstered by excellent contrast and absorbing black levels, the hi-def image shines, unimpeded by anything as unsightly as macroblocking, banding or the like. Audio-wise, the disc's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is equally impressive, bringing the film's lush soundstage to life, from the English, French and Hindi dialogue and the hustle and bustle of a busy kitchen to composer A.R. Rahman's oftentimes boisterous score, which blends together Indian themes, danceable rhythms and Western melodies.

Special Features Disney's Blu-ray release includes an iTunes digital copy of the film, as well as 37 minutes of HD bonus features, beginning with The Hundred-Foot Journey With Steven Spielberg & Oprah Winfrey, a 12-minute sit-down interview in which the two producers discuss the movie's themes, along with its development, cast and production. That's followed by a quick, yet informative, making-of piece titled The Recipe, The Ingredients, The Journey, which spends 16 minutes covering the story's origins, the locales, the aesthetic, the music, the food and the experiences of the actors and crew. Then there's the 4-minute On Set With Oprah Winfrey, where Winfrey talks briefly about the film and we see clips of her visit to the set. And last but not least, the 5-minute Coconut Chicken, is a featurette for aspiring chefs, in which Anil Sharma, Indian chef consultant for the film, teaches viewers how to make a coconut chicken with step-by-step instructions.


The Bottom Line Scrumptious both in terms of the mouth-watering food displayed on-screen and in terms of its wonderful performances, The Hundred-Foot Journey is a richly satisfying film — full of laughter, heart and valuable life lessons. Fans of the book won't be disappointed with this movie adaptation, just as fans of the movie won't be disappointed by Disney's Blu-ray treatment. With superb audio and video and a small but tasty assortment of bonus features, The Hundred-Foot Journey is one Blu-ray that's definitely worth savoring.  Ben Mk

Disc Breakdown
The Film  —  
Audio/Visual Fidelity  —  
Special Features  —  








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