Four Romantic Comedies With Cooking and Culture
Many critically acclaimed films take place in a restaurant setting or have cultural cuisine as a running motif. Here are four food themed films that blend romance with humor and drama to create a winning storyline.
Julia and Julie (2009)
A fun food flick starring Amy Adams as Julie Powell, an aspiring writer who takes on an ambitious blogging project. She decides to cook her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking––all 524 recipes––and document the process online.
Powell’s journey through the cookbook is creatively paralleled with Child’s training in French cuisine in 1950’s Paris. Child is aptly portrayed by Oscar winning actress Meryl Streep. The film does an excellent job of comparing the shared struggles of two women in two different times, as well as linking the art of cooking and the art of romance.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2000)
This cultural comedy follows the life-transformation of Toula (Nia Vardalos), a Greek-American woman who feels trapped by her heritage. At thirty, Toula has resigned herself to a life of loneliness, working as a waitress in her parent’s Greek restaurant. And then Ian Miller (John Corbett), an attractive school teacher walks in for a cup of coffee and Toula yearns for the confidence to introduce herself.
Determined to change her life for the better, Toula attends computer classes, leaves the restaurant for a travel agency, and gives herself a make-over. Of course, she ends up bumping into Ian again and the two start a relationship. Things get complicated when Toula must find a way to endear the non-Greek Ian to her very skeptical family.
Return To Me (2000)
A gentle love story featuring David Duchovny as Robert, an architect who struggles to move on after his wife, Elizabeth, is killed in a tragic car accident. Minnie Driver plays Grace, the young woman who receives Elizabeth’s heart in a life-saving organ transplant.
With her health restored, Grace works as a waitress at her grandfather’s Irish-Italian restaurant, O’Reilly’s. By coincidence, Robert comes to the restaurant on a disastrous blind date. Grace waits on his table and the two feel an instant attraction. Their friendship quickly blossoms into love and provides some much needed healing for both of them. And then, of course, Grace discovers her unusual connection with Robert’s deceased wife.
Big Night (1996)
An absorbing drama/comedy that follows the relationship of two Italian brothers as they run a restaurant called “Paradise” in New Jersey. Primo (Tony Shalhoub) is an excellent chef who refuses to Americanize his cuisine, despite the constant complaints from customers. Primo wishes to return to Italy and work in his uncle’s restaurant, but his younger brother, Secondo (Stanley Tucci) is determined to give “Paradise” a fair chance.
The bulk of the film takes place as Primo and Secondo prepare for the restaurant’s big night—the chance to host a feast for a beloved celebrity. The occasion turns out to be memorable in unexpected ways. Romantic storylines involve Primo’s crush on a lovely florist, and Secondo’s two love interests—the kind and beautiful Phyllis (Minnie Driver) and the married Gabriella (Isabella Rossellini).
Other Food Themed Movies
There are many other food films worth checking into. The low-key 1992 film I Don’t Buy Kisses Anymore stars Jason Alexander as a shoe salesman who falls in love with a grad student moonlighting as a restaurant singer (Nia Peoples).
Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart spar over cooking and matters of the heart in the 2007 romantic comedy No Reservations. And, for family movie night, the candy lover couldn’t do better than to watch the classic 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, starring Gene Wilder.