Review by Cole Groth
Few films have emerged throughout history as delicious-looking as The Taste of Things. It’s one of the year’s most exhilarating culinary experiences wrapped in a fantastically warm romantic drama. Beautifully written, shot, and staged, it’s hard to find a flaw here. Directed by Trân Anh Hùng, this film, nominated as France’s entry for the Best International Film Oscar this year, is an absolute must-see for foodies and cinephiles alike.
Set in the idyllic 19th-century French countryside, The Taste of Things follows a chef, Eugénie (Juliette Binoche), who cooks for a powerful restauranteur, Dodin (Benoît Magimel). As Dodin engages in a series of high-society engagements, with accompanying feasts served up by Eugénie, we watch a romance unfold between the two. It’s a tender and beautiful relationship, oozing with this sentimentality the French are famous for. Their relationship goes through trials and tribulations as Eugénie develops a mysterious illness.
If it isn’t abundantly clear already, the heart and soul of this film come from the food. French chef Pierre Gagnaire served as the culinary director for this, and where many other food-forward films like Chef or Big Night have thrived before in classy presentation, this film blows it out of the water. It feels like you’re a fly on the wall at a three-Michelin-star restaurant during a tasteful dinner rush — dish after dish gets pumped out, each more creative than the last. There’s a fantastic mix between classic cooking and new, inspired choices. It’s exquisite viewing that hurts a whole lot on an empty stomach as you feel truly immersed in a journey of culinary artistry.
Outside of the deliciousness of the in-film food, the romance is genuinely remarkable. Binoche and Magimel were previously married and have a daughter together, so it’s unsurprising that they have a ton of chemistry on screen. It’s a romantic drama that’s fully sincere and heartwarming. The development between the two leads feels simple and works all the better for it. At a little over two hours, there’s a lot of time to develop the relationship between the two. What makes this movie so great is that Hùng’s script is free of any cynicism, giving the two characters time to exist in the glory of each other.
The Taste of Things is a dizzyingly gorgeous film on all fronts. The romance is tender and heartfelt, the food looks incredible, and even outside that, it’s beautiful. Everything is washed in a golden light. The cinematography is simple and focuses on the petite beauties of these characters’ worlds. The kitchens feel lived-in but dreamlike at the same time. It’s a deceptively simple movie that draws you in with a gorgeous exterior and will melt your heart afterward.
On all accounts, The Taste of Things is destined to become a classic. It’s easily one of the best culinary films of our time and perfectly balances deliciousness and romance. Hùng quietly delivers a powerhouse directorial performance, supported by his fantastic screenplay and the perfect duo of Binoche and Magimel. This complete sensory experience should be seen on the big screen.
The Taste of Things releases in theaters on February 9 after a qualifying run beginning December 13.