Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Recasting 2013: "The Hundred-Foot Journey"

This is the second consecutive film I bumped up a year. Considering the cast of this movie, I don't think it would've made much of a difference age-wise had it been filmed a bit earlier. The Hundred-Foot Journey pick might come as a surprise to some. Despite Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey having produced it, I don't remember it as a super high-profile picture. But I really enjoy it. I think mainly it's the cinematography; every scene feels like its filled with tons of color. Even the moments that take place at night seem like they're bright. I get a similar sense from Julie & Julia, actually. And like that film, The Hundred-Foot Journey makes me want to eat. A lot. 

Streep would of course take the role of Madame Mallory, originally portrayed by the great Helen Mirren. Mallory owns an upscale restaurant in Southern France. When an immigrant Indian family buys an abandoned restaurant across the street, a battle ensues over attention for customers, and the fact that the new neighbors are, well...not white French. 

Hassan is the second son of the the owner of the new "Maison Mumbai," and has been groomed to become the head chef of his family's business. He had worked closely with his mother in India, before she was killed in a fire started by rioters after a disputed election. In the back-and-forth between Madame Mallory and Hassan's father, Om, Mallory's employees "in secret" deface the fencing outside of Maison Mumbai, and attempt to burn down it down. Madame Mallory fires the guy responsible, and when she takes it upon herself to clean it up the graffiti, Hassan, who's hands were burned in the fire, asks if he can make her an omelette. A sous chef at Mallory's restaurant, Marguerite (with whom Hassan sparks a bit of a romance), had previously told him that Madame Mallory can tell if a chef has what it takes to be great by tasting one bite of their omelette. 

"What, more spice?" I really like this movie, even if some of the dialogue and plot points are a bit low-brow. And it's not a bad role, either. It's certainly not as layered as say, Nic from The Kids are All Right or Big Edie from Grey Gardens, but I think Madame Mallory has a few interesting things in her "arc" that would be interesting to see Meryl negotiate and perhaps elevate. 

Madame Mallory is part of an old guard of snooty culinary insiders. France is of course a mecca for fancy cuisine, and Mallory's livelihood and legacy (and ego) depend on her achieving that elusive second Michelin Star. There's a brief reference to her late husband's former involvement in the restaurant at one point, so I guess we're expected to assume that she might carry that torch within her as well. Then there's the more interesting piece to this, in that Mallory, like probably most white people and especially most white people born before 1980, grew up with a certain amount of prejudice. Had the family been Swedish, I doubt there'd be as much of a conflict there. We get to see her get past some of that, if in a tired sort of way. 

I can't pass up the chance to talk about a new accent. Meryl has spoken French in other films (Plenty, a little bit in her Julia Child voice), but never done a French accent on screen (that I can think of). It got me thinking about how Québécois director Xavier Dolan has stated that he'd written a script for Meryl. I wonder if it would've been for a character whose first language was French. I think Mirren does a fairly good job, but I have to say that I tend to hear a bit of British in everything I've seen her do. Then I got to thinking how there's probably a difference between doing a French accent in English if it's someone who lives in Europe versus North America. Native French speakers who live in Europe probably learn British-sounding English, which no doubt has a slightly different sound in a French accent than American English. 

Mirren snagged a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy. The film was a box office success, earning close to $90 million worldwide on a budget of $22m. Mirren and director Lasse Hallström (The Cider House Rules, What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Chocolat) were both praised, and the film received decent reviews, despite the being what many critics thought was "predictable food porn." Sometimes it's just nice to watch flicks like that though. And it feels good to leave a movie in a better mood than when it started. 

1 comment:

  1. It makes sense to have something lighter at this point. This film is fairly decent. Meryl as the star could have perhaps made it a bigger hit.

    For 2014 I'm taking either of the magnificent Julianne Moore's role in "Still Alice" or "Map To The Stars". Both compelling profiles of a middle aged woman.