There are a few culinary classics in film – Eat Drink Man Woman, Like Water for Chocolate, Big Night – but they all came out a few years apart. That’s why you must rush to the theater now if you want to indulge your inner film foodie.
Three kitchen-themed films are in theaters this weekend – one, The Trip to Italy, opens Friday, while The Hundred-Foot Journey has been in theaters three weeks and Chef, a summer sleeper, keeps on trucking at the box office.
Each movie activates different parts of the film palate – The Trip to Italy is a laugh-out-loud and poignant exercise in bro-tastic one-upmanship, while The Hundred-Foot Journey is a gauzy, feel good fairy tale where good trumps all and Chef offers the in-your-face triumph of a fed-up man downsizing to overcome his career crisis.
The Trip to Italy, a sequel to 2010’s The Trip, stars UK comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as versions of themselves, reunited to take a road trip in which they enjoy all the culinary delights Italy has to offer. But in so doing, we see far more than Italy’s fantastic ruins and seaside beauty. Coogan and Brydon plumb the depths of the artistic ego as they chat in their Cooper and over pasta, but their exchanges also suggest how one’s talent can be as much a trap as a blessing. It’s a talky flick, but a funny one and as a pure travelogue it’s simply divine.
Notable dish: Anything with seafood. The ravioli looks delicious, but when Coogan and Brydon make their stops at seaside resorts you can practically smell the briny air.
The Hundred-Foot Journey tells the tale of Hassan, an Indian ex-pat and budding food genius. His family settles in France, where they open a restaurant that immediately draws the ire of snooty competitor Madame Mallory, played by Oscar-winner Helen Mirren. The food is lovingly rendered by people who truly care about it – both the main characters show their devotion in the kitchen because of grievous losses in their lives. There is bah-humbugging on the interwebs about the sweeter aspects of the film, but when did happy endings become passé?
Notable dish: The French classic boeuf bourguignon is easier to find, though you won’t be able to fetch the version of the dish with Hassan’s Indian twist. A simple unadorned herb omelette would do too.
Chef offers a bit of a step back for its director-writer-star as well as its protagonist. Jon Favreau, who, though he has mastered a franchise like Iron Man, has a touch for smaller films too. Take Elf, which has become a holiday mainstay. In his latest, his accomplished chef does the ol’ take-this-job-and-shove-it and finds himself back at square one, not just in business, but in life. So he launches a food truck, where he can cook his own way. Blockbusters tend to make a big splash, then fade away, and Chef has outlasted most of them, lingering in theaters since May.
Notable dish: A variation on the Cuban sandwich. but you also can get in the spirit and make your way to any food truck night to salute the bootstrap spirit of self-starters like Favreau’s Chef.
The Trip to Italy and Chef are screening in limited release in Hillcrest and La Jolla, while The Hundred-Foot Journey is in wide release at major theaters.