There are few things better than kicking back with a good film – unless you’ve got a fragrant glass of wine and elaborate food pairing to match. There’s something about the grandiose silver screen that just makes everything look better and essentially larger than life, including food. For all those who eat with their eyes as well as their mouths, here are some delicious-looking films you won’t want to miss out on; just make sure you don’t watch on an empty stomach.
“Chocolat” (Lasse Hallstrom, 2003)
This tasty tale based on the self-titled book will have your mouth watering, and I’m not just referring to Johnny Depp’s role as an Irish river pirate years before he donned his Jack Sparrow gear. The film follows the lovely Juliet Binoche as Vianne, a drifting single mother who opens a chocolaterie in a very conservative and traditional tiny French village in the countryside. Her delicious creations and warmhearted demeanor soon begin to unravel the community’s tight-lipped residents and melt away their troubles (pun most definitely intended). Ensure your box of chocolates is within arm’s reach before attending to this one.
“Like Water for Chocolate” (Alfonso Arau, 1992)
Ok, so there may be a pattern emerging here where ‘films about food’ has become ‘films about chocolate’…but considering it’s probably the most delicious dessert ever invented, this was to be expected. “Like Water for Chocolate” goes a step further than “Chocolat” in explicitly linking the story of two star-crossed lovers to demonstrations of devotion and sexual longing through food itself. This film plays with magical realism in a way that is sure to get your taste-buds tingling, leaving you as hungry for the bizarre recipes onscreen as the two lovers are for each other.
“Estomago” (Marcos Jorge, 2007)
Undeservedly unknown, this food-centered fable works with a series of flashbacks to uncover the reasons behind a cook’s recent jail sentence. In his relationship with a hooker who loves food more than anything else, the cook learns to adapt his culinary talents for practical uses. “Estomago” uses food as a springboard for a deeply disturbing exploration of sex, power, and violence, taking all of the above to the next level through its unusual story-line. If this is all sounding rather vague, it’s meant to; this is the kind of film that deserves a spectator with a clean slate and an empty stomach.
“Ratatouille” (Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava, 2007)
This Pixar classic takes its unlikely premise of a rat who longs to be a gourmet Parisian chef and transforms it into a tale by turns funny, sweet, and hunger-inducing (despite all the food being CGI). This charming animated film effectively satirizes the pretentiousness of haute cuisine, while making a case for food as a true work of art. Moreover, chef hats-off to the animators who managed to create what is perhaps the first instance of synesthesia (one sense experienced as another) onscreen, with Remy presenting his creative visual taste-bud reactions to the different flavors he experiments with in his cooking. For friends and family alike, this is one sweet dish worth revisiting.
“Sideways” (Alexander Payne, 2004)
As funny as it is heartbreaking, “Sideways” is a bittersweet love letter to wine, personal obsessions, and the pain that comes with moving on after expectations are dashed – whether it be in a decade-long relationship or a three course meal. More specifically, Paul Giamatti’s brilliant portrayal of a man consumed in equal parts by his lingering feelings for his ex-wife and his deep-seated appreciation of fine wine (anything but Merlots) will feed your taste buds and your soul. Your favorite bottle needs to be on hand to dull the protagonists’ contagious pain; just make sure you have real wine glasses instead of a Styrofoam cup.