Archive for Movie Reviews

Thoughts on “Ratatouille”

Much has already been written about Disney’s Ratatouille, the animated story of the sensory-gifted rat Remy and his culinary adventures in the Parisian restaurant called Gusteau’s. I finally made it to the theater this past Saturday, but since I am a little behind the times on this one, I’ll just offer up a few random thoughts instead of a full review.

The film exhibits an amazing attention to detail regarding everything from the authentically-rendered Parisian cityscape to the scuffed-up pots and pans in Gusteau’s kitchen. In addition to the artistry of the film, the story of Remy, a rat who wants, who needs to cook no matter the obstacles, is touching and fun. It’s also easily understood by anyone who has ever pursued a creative goal. Near the beginning of the movie, Remy states, “If you are what you eat, I want to eat the good stuff.” These are words to live by, even if they do come from a rat (but a very cute rat).

Two moments in the film stand out to me more than others. The first is when Colette, the only female line cook in a kitchen of shady male characters, mentions how difficult it is for women to enter the professional kitchen, and how hard she has worked to be accepted at Gusteau’s. From what I have read, her story is all too familiar and true.

But for me, the most affecting moment of the film arrives when Anton Ego, the spindly-legged, miserable food critic, eats his first bite of Remy’s elegant take on ratatouille. With this first taste, the critic is whisked back to a memory of himself as a child, standing on his front stoop in tears, then quickly comforted with a dish of steaming homemade ratatouille. When the smile from his childhood spreads across his face as an adult, the wondrous power of food and cooking is summed up perfectly in this moment.

Besides simply sating hunger and providing sustenance, food also encompasses memories and feelings under the surface of these physical needs. Remy struggles to convey this point to his rat brethren throughout the film. In the end, everyone enjoys food in their own way, whether they are rats or humans. Perhaps we’re not as far apart as we think. (But I think that’s a topic for another movie.)


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Movie Review: Waitress

Unfortunately I didn’t spend much time in the kitchen this week. I try to plan my time carefully and stagger my social engagements and errands so that I wind up cooking at home most nights, but this week it just didn’t happen. I’m not popular, just a poor planner. So, instead of talking about something I’ve cooked or eaten lately,  I’m writing about about a fun and touching food-related movie called Waitress that I saw on Saturday night.

Now, everyone who has known me for at least the past 10 years remembers that I was a huge fan of the now-cancelled television show Felicity. When I heard that Keri Russell, the star of the angst-ridden show and sometime role model for curly-haired pride, was coming out with a new movie AND that it was about pies, there was no doubt in my mind that I’d be there as soon as possible. 

Waitress tells the story of Jenna (Russell) a waitress in a small-town pie-diner stuck in a lousy marriage to controlling Earl (Jeremy Sisto). Her sole desire in life is simply to make pies. Colorful, creative, mind-blowing pies. Our heroine has been stashing money away under the couch, in the sugar jar, all over the house, preparing for her escape, when she discovers her unexpected–and unwanted–pregnancy. The rest of the film follows Jenna’s personal journey towards independence and reluctant motherhood.

The acting by Russell and the rest of the cast is wonderful and poignent, especially considering the tragic murder this fall of the film’s writer, director, and co-star, Adrienne Shelly. But the crucial co-stars are the uncredited, imaginative pies dreamed up by Jenna. They act as markers for the significant events in her life, such as “Pregnant and Miserable Self-Pitying Loser Pie,” and “Naughty Pumpkin Pie,” tied with red ribbon, for her bumbling obstetrician and new lover, Dr. Pomatter (Nathan Fillion). The stop-action photography of the pies, with close-ups of berries, bananas, chocolate, nuts, and more, fully exploits the beauty and significance of these desserts.

Some of the best moments in the film show how food connects people to each other, as seen during an afternoon where Jenna teaches Dr. Pomatter how to bake a pie. The intimacy of the activity helps the couple form a previously-unrealized emotional connection, and provides Jenna with a much-needed “best friend.”

Waitress doesn’t overdo the pie-and-life connection, but rather finds a balance between pastry and the choices we make everyday in our quest to be happy. Helped by a cheerful soundtrack and amusing co-stars–Cheryl Hines adds wonderful comic relief as another co-waitress in the film named Becky–Waitress serves up an entertaining mix of humor and emotion. If you have time, indulge yourself in this confectionery delight of a film.

I do have a question though: Has anyone else ever heard of a “pie diner”? I believe this film takes place in the South, and at one point Dr. Pomatter speaks of a pie diner he would go to in Connecticut as a child. Just wondering, as I had never heard the term before.

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