- Posted August 14, 2013 by
Movies about food are the only thing better than food itself and fortunately there have been quite a number of them produced.
A labor of love for Stanley Tucci, who co-wrote, co-directed, and starred in this beautifully crafted drama about two Jersey Shore restaurateurs who hope Louis Prima will save their failing family business. The scenes featuring the two brothers working together in the kitchen—especially a dialogue-free long take in which one prepares a perfect omelet for the other—are particularly affecting.
Almost a quarter-century after the film's release, the culminating scene of this quietly urgent Danish drama still stands as the most beautifully rendered depiction of a lavish meal ever committed to celluloid. But it's not just spectacle for spectacle's sake: The triumphant banquet sequence also communicates volumes about the movie's central theme, the eternal tug-of-war between self-denial and sensual gratification.
Charm is not the first word that springs to mind when you envision a rat running loose in a restaurant kitchen and making chef recipes, but that's exactly what this animated kids' flick has—in spades. Oh, and an evil food critic named Anton Ego, voiced by Irish acting institution Peter O'Toole. What's not to love?
Like Water for Chocolate
An enchanting magical realist drama from Mexican director Alfonso Arau, about the power of food to…make every guest at a wedding begin to sob uncontrollably, cause a woman to become so turned on that her clothes catch fire, conjure a visit from vengeful ghosts, and more. If you've ever doubted the sensual power of a recipe, this should go straight to the top of your Netflix queue.
Speaking of sensual power: The primary ingredients of Lasse Hallström's whimsical tale included Juliette Binoche, as a single mother who moves to a tiny French village in the 1960s; Johnny Depp, as a riverboat-dwelling drifter; and, yes, a certain sweet, cacao-based substance that wins over the closed hearts of all those stuffy petits-bourgeois. Hmmm, we wonder why this was a hit…
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Roald Dahl's classic story, first brought to cinematic life in 1971 as Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (in a production funded, bizarrely, by the Quaker Oats Company), got the over-the-top Tim Burton treatment in 2005. Apart from noting a thoroughly self-indulgent performance by Johnny Depp, the reviews were mostly positive, with The Guardian calling it "an authentic Dahlian gloop, mixing a dash of sentimentality with a quart of satirical gross-out." (Translation: Ideal for kids.)
Eat Drink Man Woman
Before graduating to sensitive independent features like Hulk (OK, just kidding), Taiwanese-American director Ang Lee made his name with this depiction of an emotionally repressed Taipei family. The central character is a master chef whose only real means of communicating with his three headstrong daughters is via the elaborate Sunday dinner he cooks for them every week. By turns funny and poignant, this is a beautifully balanced study that well deserved its foreign-film Oscar nomination.
Marketed as the '"first noodle western," this Japanese comedy tells the story of a widow who dreams of opening the ultimate noodle bar and finds unexpected help from a trucker. Several stories are interwoven into the drama, each reflecting some aspect of the characters' relationship to food (some of which are of the carnal variety). Epicureans will love the scene in which a lowly office worker upstages the arrogant suits in his office with his knowledge of fine French cuisine.
I Am Love
The most recent entrant in the food-as-a-means-of-seduction genre stars Tilda Swinton as the impeccably groomed matriarch of a powerful Milanese family; her comfortable, controlled world slowly disintegrates as she falls for a young working-class chef and his sublime culinary creations. A sumptuous, operatic tale that flirts with, but never gives way to, melodrama.
More than just a buddy picture or a road-trip movie, Sideways is about something every foodie flirts with at some point: obsession. Hats off to Paul Giamatti for creating a character who—between his fumbling flirtations with a waitress and his tragic downing of a 1961 Château Cheval Blanc in a Styrofoam cup—so perfectly straddles the line between appreciating something and letting it rule your life.