Five foodie films reviewed

Five foodie films reviewed

Get the popcorn ready: our reviewer taste tests a few food-themed movies

Be warned; the following movies will leave you peckish. Before watching, be sure to make popcorn. None of that bagged stuff though – we’re talking air popped, with melted butter (real butter) and sprinkled with sea salt. This week we review five foodie films.

The Hundred-Foot Journey is a 2014 comedy-drama about two restaurants. It stars Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal and Charlotte Le Bon and is based on the book of the same name.

A worker at Pete's Frootique in Halifax stocks shelves. (Photo Nikki Jamieson)
A worker at Pete’s Frootique in Halifax stocks shelves. (Photo Nikki Jamieson)

Starting in India, Dayal explains how he learned to cook from his mother, who was the chef at the family’s restaurant. The family leaves for England after rioters set fire to the restaurant, killing his mother. When England isn’t to their liking, they travel around Europe.

After a series of events – car brakes failing, stopping in front of a village with a restaurant for sale, and quality ingredients everywhere – the father, over his children’s protests, buys a restaurant. The restaurant, is exactly 100 feet from a Michelin-starred restaurant, and soon the two establishments are at war.

This film put me in a good mood. While movie adaptations can come off as stilted, the story flowed nicely. My one complaint is that Mirren and Puri’s characters were more engaging than Dayal, the main character. His love of food was adorable, but he was outshone by his supporting cast.

Score: Seven out of ten feet

Chef is a 2014 comedy starring Jon Favreau, Sofía Vergara, John Leguizamo and Scarlett Johansson.

Favreau plays a divorced chef with a strained relationship with his son. After a restaurant critic gives him a scathing review, he gets into a Twitter war and has a public meltdown that goes viral.

Embarrassed and jobless, he goes to Miami and gets a food truck from his ex’s ex. He makes his way back to California with his son and a friend, selling food along the way.

Initially, I was disappointed. The first hour was slow, filled with clichés like watching a street performer with a dancing skeleton before reading the awful review, big named actors appearing just the sake of it and a giant product placement for Twitter.

In the second hour the pace picks up, and we begin to see plot in terms of moments. For example, the chef giving his son his first chef’s knife and later introducing him to beignets, a deep fried French pastry.

What really sets the movie up though is the considerate amount of food porn throughout the film. Do not watch on an empty stomach.

Score: Six out of ten food trucks

Chocolat is a 2000 comedy-drama starring Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp and Judi Dench.

A mother and daughter arrive in a small French town in the late 1950s and set up a chocolate shop. Of course, there would be no story if this wasn’t a village that follows tradition, led by a strict mayor. This family is different; they don’t go to church, she had a child out of wedlock, she wears bright colours and the shop opened – full of sweet temptations – in the middle of lent.

A worker at Pete’s Frootique  in Halifax stocks shelves. (Photos: Nikki Jamieson)
Apples as a healthy movie snack. (Photo: Nikki Jamieson

Although she begins to win people over and change their lives for the better, it is an uphill battle with the mayor intent on driving her out of business.

Maybe it’s the inner chocoholic in me , but this film hit all the right spots. Yes, the story could be seen as cliché and overdone – seen from the “new girl moves in, is an outcast, leader wants her gone” angle, but it works because the focus is not just the mother’s story.

There is the mayor’s struggle to get the townspeople to follow tradition, a friend leaving her abusive husband and a landlady reconnecting with her grandson. All of these stories flow into one, beautiful storyline.

Score: Nine out of ten chocolates

Ratatouille is a 2007 animated film starring the voice talents of Patton Oswalt, Lou Romano, Janeane Garofalo and Ian Holm.

Oswalt voices a rat with a passion for food. He becomes separated from his family and ends ups a Parisian restaurant. He saves a fouled-up soup but gets caught in the kitchen by the chefs. The newly hired garbage-boy gets the credit for the soup, and is told to dispose of the rat. The boy discovers the rat was responsible for making the soup, and they decide to work together. The boy provides the human face, allowing the rat to cook. Their food becomes a success, much to the head chef’s dismay.

This is a true underdog (or would it be under rat?) story. Granted, no one can learn that the rat is the real chef, due to health code violations that are too blatant to ignore, but like they say in the movie, “anyone can cook.” The head chef is a bit over the top villain-wise, but as this is an animated movie, it’s allowable.

Score: Eight out of ten chef hats

Julie & Julia is a 2009 comedy-drama starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams.

Based on two true stories, Streep plays Julia Child in Paris during the 1950s, where she attends Le Cordon Bleu to learn French cooking, and co-authors a book of French cooking for Americans.

Adams plays Julie Powell, who in an attempt to do something she enjoys,  plans on cooking every recipe in Child’s cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year, and blogs about it. There are many parallels between the two women: both have supportive husbands, receive dismissal for following their passions and receive praise when they accomplish their goals, although Child dismisses Powell’s blog.

While the film is enjoyable, there is a little too much parallel between the two plots. It would have been nice if when something bad happened to one, something good happened to another for a change, instead of them sharing joy and pain all the time. And while Adams’ character is supposed to be obsessive about her goal, she comes off more whiny then driven.

Score: Seven out of ten cookbooks