Monday, November 17, 2014

The Hundred-Foot Journey

I loved the movie The Hundred-Foot Journey, so when I heard that it was based on a book by Richard C. Morais I thought it would be a great audio treat.  While the book was okay--three stars on GoodReads--here is a case where the movie is definitely better than the book.

The first half of Morais's The Hundred-Foot Journey provides the story for the movie, but with some significant changes.  I have to say that I like the story arc in the movie so much more than in the book.

Spoilers for book and movie below...

In the movie, Hassan returns to Lumiere, the village in France where his displaced family finally settles down, and becomes the chef who wins the third Michelin star for Madame Mallory's restaurant, Le Saule Pleureur.  He returns to his girlfriend, Margaret, the sou chef, and together they soar to culinary heights surrounded by friends and family.  It is a warm, lovely story about loyalty, roots, home, community, and joie de vivre.

The book takes a different tack.  Hassan never returns to Lumiere.  Both Papa and Madame Mallory die.  Hassan's restaurant finally does earn three Michelin stars, but most of the Paris part of the book is gastronomic showboating.  While it was fun to read about Paris and the world of haute cuisine, Hassan becomes an insufferable bore.  When Margaret finally tracks him down in the city, she is begging for a job, having left an abusive husband, and with two children in tow.  It's all rather pathetic.

Whereas the movie is life-affirming and satisfying, the book is ultimately a bit on the depressing side.

Back to the movie, Helen Mirren is perfectly cast as Madame Mallory, the uptight French chef and restaurateur who becomes Hassan's mentor, and Hassan, Papa, and Marguerite (Margaret in the book) are all equally perfect.  But the real star of the movie is Lumiere, the village in France, where Hassan's family stumbles upon and stays.  Like its name, it's full of light, and exquisite.  Lush, verdant, bucolic, self-contained.

I found an article about the town where the movie was filmed.  It is Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val in the Midi-Pyrénées in southern France.  I think a pilgrimage is in order!


  1. I really liked this movie...but I think I'll skip the book. :) Thanks for the warning!

  2. I have not seen the movie but I likely will do so at some point.

    I thought that I was the only person who sometimes like film versions better. I tend to attribute that to a book being not that good in the first place and the filmmaker just being more skilled at his or her craft.

  3. Ha, I just reviewed this film. Glad to have read your review, because now I know to stay away from the book. I did wonder whether I should read it when I heard the movie had been based on the book, but the film felt so good that I thought I better not spoil it. I loved the setting in the film, too - it was all very dreamlike.