Melissa McCarthy spent seven years playing a professional chef on Gilmore Girls, so you can imagine my disappointment that her new movie The Kitchen is not a spinoff for that character. This week, we’re doing a Roundtable on favorite movies about cooking or food preparation anyway.
To be honest, I thought of this topic a long time ago and have been waiting for an excuse to do it. Since I’ve got no other good tie-ins for this weekend’s new movies, now seems like as good a time as any.
Ratatouille is about food and criticism, two things near and dear to my heart. It’s easy to forget just how whimsical and delightful the film is, while simultaneously being so eminently weird. The allusions to Guy Savoy’s kitchen in Paris and Thomas Keller’s French Laundry on the West coast of the U.S. made sure that this rodent cooked up a hell of a meal (even if I don’t really love the dish that gives the movie its name).
I love reviewing movies, but I’ve always fantasized about being a restaurant critic. Along with film, food is my greatest passion, and in addition to eating, I’m also an enthusiastic home cook. Maybe that’s why I connect so viscerally with Julie & Julia, which celebrates not just food preparation and one of the most iconic chefs of modern times, but our innate connection to food on a basic, everyday level and how it fuels not just our bodies, but more importantly, our souls.
Meryl Streep is absolutely amazing – and so adorable – as the inimitable Julia Child, who drools over butter and Dover sole, and parlays a fanatical attachment to food into a trailblazing career as a cookbook author, television chef, and culinary ambassador. Amy Adams is equally good as Julie Powell, an aspiring writer and obsessive foodie who combats a lingering ennui by vowing to cook, and blog about, all of Child’s 534 recipes in her bestselling tome Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 365 days. Director Nora Ephron beautifully dovetails the two women’s respective personal and professional evolutions, but never neglects the thread that ties them together… food.
What I love so much about Julie & Julia is that it not only showcases the food itself, it also showcases the preparation, the trial and error that produce various dishes, the frustrations that accompany culinary disasters, and the euphoria that comes with executing a challenging recipe. Lots of mouth-watering shots of gourmet cuisine will get your stomach rumbling and stimulate those salivary glands, but the inspirational story and Streep’s buoyant, completely captivating performance will warm your heart as well.
I wish I could say that a film like Oldboy could inspire my culinary consideration, but in fact even Ratatouille is beyond my basic palate. Likewise, when I think of food in movies, it’s usually a scene I would rather was toned down (Hook) or cut (The Two Towers, the first Captain America).
Of course, when I think of prison or any kind of incarceration, I tend to think of rotten, rancid food, a lack of food, and even hunger strikes among the other terrible tenets of being institutionalized. But I dare anyone to watch Goodfellas and not immediately wish for some of that prison mobster cuisine. (I also recommend Bottle Shock for drumming up a thirst.)
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
When I watch a film like Jon Favreau’s Chef, I can appreciate the artistry behind, say, the roast squab that the titular chef prepares in a vengeful frenzy at home, served with pickled red onion, chilies, gochujang, and a soy vinaigrette.
Still, I’m a simple man with simple tastes. I have never seen a grilled cheese sandwich so seductive as the one that Favreau’s Carl Casper cooks for his son. That scene genuinely influenced me and my wife as we designed the kitchen in our new home. I defy anyone to watch Chef and not immediately dart out for a Cuban sandwich, even though I’ve still yet to come across one as tantalizingly gorgeous as those on-screen. While I get that the chocolate lava cake early on is meant to represent just how stagnant the menu at Carl’s restaurant had become, I’ll freely admit that I’d tear into one right now, leaving that melted chocolate ganache spilling out all over the plate.
I’d write more, but I just looked up the recipe for that grilled cheese, and I need to get cracking.
Ang Lee’s delightful Eat Drink Man Woman will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you very hungry. The film is a good old-fashioned melodrama about generational conflicts and familial strife, told with endearing characters and no small amount of sly humor. The family at the center is headed by an aging master chef who, in one of life’s great ironies, is losing his sense of taste. Cooking is his art, and like Beethoven gone deaf, he must rely on his skill and his memories to continue creating. Each Sunday, he hosts a family dinner for his three willful daughters, and the story is filled with many wonderful twists and surprises as each character attempts to manipulate the lives of the others.
The film warmly embraces each of its characters, exploring their lives with great attention to nuance and detail. Lee also spends a considerable amount of time basking in the details of the father’s work, showcasing a tantalizing display of Chinese cuisine that’s sure to leave any viewer craving for a good meal.
What movies have made your mouth water with their delectable displays of cooking prowess?