Friday, April 18, 2014

Movie with Abe: Tasting Menu

Tasting Menu
Directed by Roger Gual
Released April 18, 2014

Food movies belong to a very specific genre. It’s hard not to find a film like “Big Night” appetizing, and part of the delight of watching the film is being able to imagine just how delicious all the food on screen would taste in real life. The new film “Tasting Menu” is inarguably a food movie, one that showcases its clever culinary inventions but utilizes them more as centerpieces for a grander web of stories and that finds a colorful cast of characters gathered together for the much-anticipated closing night of a legendary restaurant.

“Tasting Menu” follows a number of different plotlines, starting centrally from the focal point of chef Mar (Vicenta N’Dongo) and manager Max (Andrew Tarbet) preparing for an unforgettable evening of meticulously-prepared dishes served to a select slate of guests who have had reservations for months. Among the attendees are famed writer Rachel (Claudia Bassols) and her ex-husband Marc (Jan Cornet), a mysterious food connoisseur (Stephen Rea), a chatty translator (Marta Torné) representing two competing Japanese businessman, and a widowed Countess (Fionnula Flanagan). As each course is served, more is revealed about each person in the restaurant and the ways in which their stories are connected.

“Tasting Menu” begins as a staged, carefully choreographed production set to the meter of the dinner and its many components. As it progresses, however, some of the plotlines begin to converge, and at a certain point, everything comes together in a surprising and not entirely logical way. Yet it’s the ride that’s most entertaining here, and watching all of its players interact, even if it might not be totally believable, is a treat. The food is fancy and its preparation is magnificent, and it provides the perfect setting for this fleeting but fun series of interconnected stories.

The cast in “Tasting Menu” is a big part of its success, the crucial ingredients of a terrific recipe. In what can be considered the leading roles, N’Dongo and Tarbet stick to the background and portray professional people doing their best to deliver a final performance. Both Bassols and Cornet are charming and make the most of their screen time, and the rest of the cast contributes just what’s needed, with Torné especially delighting in her scenes. This film might be odd at times, but overall, it’s quite a delight. Its title is appropriate – it’s a solid sampling of what could be many larger stories, compressed down into one multifaceted and entertaining night.


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