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Björn Hlynur Haraldsson
"Tasting Menu" (2013 release from Spain; 85 min.) brings the story of various people, set against the backdrop of a fabulous tasting menu meal at the last night of business for Chaluka, a trendy restaurant whose owner and chef, a woman named Mar Vidal, has decided to close it and try something different. As the movie opens, we see Mar Vidal being interviewed on TV, with the TV host begging for a seat on that last evening (she refuses). We then get to know a slew of people, all of whom are preparing to show up for the final meal. There is Marc and Raquel, who made their reservation a year ago but since then have separated. They nevertheless decide they don't want to miss this dinner. There are a couple of Japanese guys who fly in from Tokyo, thinking of hiring Mar Vidal for her next project. There is ailing Countess Matilda, who shows up with the ashes of her deceased husband "because he didn't want to miss this". There is Walter Reilly who may or may not be a food critic. And so on. To tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: first, this is the latest movie from Spanish director Roger Gual (best known for his movie "Smoking Room" a decade or so ago). Second, because there are so many main characters, this movie almost feels like an ensemble piece, or perhaps a soap opera. Will Marc and Raquel get back together? What's the story behind the Countess? Will the Japanese convince Mar Vidal to come to Tokyo? etc. etc. Third, this movie is the latest movie geared specifically towards foodies (with yet more to come--see Jon Favreau's "Chef" about to be released). We see all kinds of interesting dishes (presumably Spanish regional food from the Costa Brava, where the movie is set). Last but not least, there are some interesting acting performances, none more so than Claudia Bassols as the stunningly beautiful Raquel. Bottom line: this movie is a light-hearted romcom that thankfully doesn't take itself too seriously. The movie flew by in no time, but gets away from you like a feather quickly upon leaving the theater. A psychological drama this ain't!
"Tasting Menu" opened this past weekend without any pre-release buzz or advertising at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati. The matinée screening where I saw this at was not well attended, in fact I had a semi-private screening (as in: there was only 1 other person in the theater besides myself). This movie is not bad but neither is it great. If you are in the mood for something that is as yummy but fluffy as a fresh croissant straight from the oven, I'd recommend you check out "Tasting Menu", be it in the theater or on DVD/Blu-ray.
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