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.)