Friday, August 3, 2007

Food and Film

A long weekend and I'm up early. It was very hot last night, but with no a/c I was lucky enough to sleep like a baby. Before I hurl myself on the unsuspecting day, here are two movies which involve food that I saw this week, in delicious state-of-the-art, surround-air-conditioning.

Ratatouille is an animated film about a little rat who longs to be a chef. It's not so much fall-about laughing humour, more a gentler sort. The scenery is amazing - it's the kind of animation where you are distracted by how rich it is and by questions of how they did it. For that alone I'd go back and see it again. Voice casting has changed so much in animated movies since I was a kid. It's much more star-based now, but either way, it seems more care is taken over the voices and I think the current standard is better. If you like endearing little Disney heroes and/or food and/or Paris, you'll like this movie.

No Reservations is a remake of a German film called Mostly Martha (2001), which I loved, so I was a bit leery about the new film. Catherine Zeta-Jones plays a withdrawn, uptight, NY executive chef whose life is turned upside down when she has to raise her orphaned niece, played by the delightful Abigail Breslin, Olive in Little Miss Sunshine (2006). Aaron Eckhart is the handsome, outlandish, untamed chef brought in to manage Zeta-Jones' kitchen as she takes time off to help her grieving niece adjust. Of course tension flares in the best romantic tradition when Zeta-Jones comes back to find the rigid discipline in her kitchen relaxing in the charming presence of the new hunky male chef. I really like Zeta-Jones, although would have preferred if she'd been a touch more uptight. I think Eckhart was so badly cast. He was big and noisy with no real sense of rebellion. I think they were trying to make him Italian, while remaining American. I much preferred him in Possession (2002) where he was an American in a role originally written for a Brit, and - therefore - much more lowkey. He's a handsome man with big features and big presence, so it's preferable to me that he tone it down a bit. And there was a lot of cliche let loose in this movie, like the hero playing "Nessun dorma" (to illustrate that he loves all things Italian and is likely a passionate sort - d'oh!); the pillow fight that ends in feathers everywhere (really? this is fun?), the hero's designer stubble (surely we're past this... ouch), and the over-use of tiramisu and Puccini in general. Bob Balaban plays Zeta-Jones' therapist and has a great apartment - I think that was my favourite bit. Actually Zeta-Jones has a great apartment too and she looked wonderful. So I guess the look of the movie was my favourite bit. I just wish they'd thrown out the cliche, and surprised me a bit more. I'd have loved it then. I'll probably rent Mostly Martha again - it's refreshing and, for the romantics out there, when the guy finally kisses the girl over the saucepan, I melted. I remember it well, I held my breath and melted. Just like the heroine.

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