Each week, the Reel Dad checks the nutritional value of a movie — new or classic — to help you choose what to watch. This week’s pick is a new offering from France, soon to be released in area theaters, Haute Cuisine.
The movies love chefs, kitchens and food. From Julie and Julia to Ratatouille, something about a chef’s creative process excites moviemakers and audiences. And, depending on a film’s visual sense, a good show about food makes us hungry, too.
Haute Cuisine, a comedy from France, spotlights a chef’s creative process. Set in the world of politics and absorbed with a passion for food, the movie reveals the ins and outs of what it takes to feed a high profile leader with a most demanding palate. Thanks to marvelous story telling on screen, we experience a range of culinary delights from a kitchen staff with a flair for the dramatic. Oh, the appetite this movie stimulates!
In real life, Danièle Delpeuch was a self-trained country cook and a dedicated farmer who was invited in 1998 to become the personal chef of Francois Mitterand, the President of France. On film, as the fictional Hortense Laborie, the lady initially hesitates at taking the job before she realizes the opportunity is too significant to resist, especially the chance to please a leader who is less than happy with the state meals created in the official kitchen of his presidential palace. Never one to bypass a challenge, Hortense searches for truth in cooking for a man who is as interested in food as in political success. With every meal, she takes steps to break down traditional barriers for women in a story that entertains us with every morsel.
On film, Haute Cuisine offers a marvelous tour of appetizing food, interesting characters and evolving relationships. Hortense cooks up meals that do not follow the norms of the official kitchen as she dares to challenge the conventions of the palace, from how the budget is allocated, to how menus are created and physician’s orders are followed. We are treated to a woman’s guided tour of delightful food as we experience her determination to make sure her voice is heard throughout the palace, not just in her small private kitchen.
This movie is a joy. Filmmakers Christian Vincent and Etienne Comar capture the essence of Delpeuch’s story without letting the character’s point of view overwhelm the story’s essential lightness, much as a great chef would never let a soufflé become too dense. They make it easy for Hortense to secure our interest without forcing us to believe in every choice she makes. Despite the film’s brief running time, Vincent and Comar paint a complete picture of a woman so in touch with herself, and her sense of food, that she never hesitates to express her views. In a lovely performance, Catherine Frot makes it easy for us to believe in the lady’s natural humor, authentic sense of self, and absolute determination to serve the best possible food. The film celebrates the passion any chef must bring to any kitchen to satisfy a hunger to create.
With the visual potential of food, and the natural drama of a chef’s creative process, it’s no wonder moviemakers love to tell stories about meals and cooks. Haute Cuisine reminds us that, when the heat in the kitchen gets too intense, the best chefs know, precisely, how to make the most of the heat.
Film Nutritional Value
* Content: High. The story, inspired by the life of French cook Danièle Delpeuch, offers a marvelous glimpse into a presidential kitchen.
* Entertainment: High. Just as the best of meals makes us want more, Haute Cuisine is so much fun we hope for another serving.
* Message: Medium. As entertaining as this film is, it also points out the barriers that some men continue to impose on women in professional settings.
* Relevance: High. Any opportunity to experience great food is a delight, on film or on a plate.
* Opportunity for Dialogue: Medium. While this is not a film that will generate significant conversation, it is great fun.
(Haute Cuisine is rated PG-13 for “brief language”. The film runs 95 minutes.)
4 Popcorn Buckets