Feeling hungry ... foodie chick flicks
Many movies celebrate the particular relationship between women and food. Preparing a feast can give a female character a welcome form of personal expression – and sometimes even magical powers – and the meals that she cooks will invariably be far more than simply something to eat. Food is a life force, and making a glorious meal is a metaphor for living life to the full. Foodie chick flicks also tend to equate food with female sensuality and subversive power, while movie men who can cook generally turn out to be the good guys. (There are exceptions, naturally; Hannibal Lecter, with his fried liver and glass of Chablis, comes to mind.)
Below, I’ve chosen a handful of the most tempting foodie chick flicks ever made, perfect for long winter nights. So curl up on the sofa, grab a little bit of whatever you fancy to munch on, and let a foodie movie feed your soul.
Babette’s Feast, 1987
This Danish classic is a wonderfully celebratory treat, following the transformative powers of a sumptuous banquet cooked by Babette, a French woman, on the household of two withdrawn and duty-bound sisters. From a short story by Isak Dinesen (the pseudonym adopted by Karen Blixen), who also wrote Out of Africa.
Like Water For Chocolate, 1991
Based on the bestselling magical realism novel by Laura Esquivel, this delightful film is suffused with Mexican culture; a culture in which the struggle between duty, tradition, family and passion looms large. A twenty-year-long domestic saga – taking in revolution, long-held secrets, erotic obsession, curses and ghosts – it features a rich array of beautifully drawn female characters, with the intensely emotional power of food, and the magic that can occur in the kitchen, always to the fore.
Eat Drink Man Woman, 1994
Before Sense and Sensibility, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Brokeback Mountain, director Ang Lee came up with this gentle family drama about a Taiwanese master chef and his three unmarried daughters, who play out their latest dramas and crises over the weekly ritual of an elaborate Sunday meal.
Soul Food, 1997
This time the family is African American, and the chef is the formidable matriarch Mama Joe, who has cooked a soul food feast for her family every Sunday for forty years. When she’s hospitalized with diabetes, the family seems set to fall apart – until Joe’s grandson hatches a cunning plot.
Though fans of Joanne Harris’ book may be disappointed to find that the movie diverges from the novel, this is another feat of glorious magical realism, with Juliette Binoche appealing as the mysterious young mother who turns a repressed French town upside-down with her sensuous chocolates. Visually, it’s gorgeous – Binoche’s outfits are as stunning as the confections she prepares, and Johnny Depp makes a welcome appearance as the wildly romantic gypsy, Roux.
What’s Cooking?, 2000
Director Gurinder Chadha (who also brought us Bend It Like Beckham) transports her knack for domestic drama to LA with this deft saga of secrets, lies and family feuds played out around the kitchen and the dining room tables. The strong female cast – including ER’s Julianna Margulies as a feisty lesbian daughter and the always-watchable Alfre Woodard as the career woman battling her traditional mother-in-law – is superb.
Pieces Of April, 2003
Katie Holmes, in between playing the too good-to-be-true Joey in TV teen soap Dawson’s Creek and hooking up with Tom Cruise, puts in a fantastic performance in this sharp, poignant indie comedy. She shines as stroppy punk April, who invites her estranged family – including her difficult, dying mother (Patricia Clarkson) – to Thanksgiving dinner in her grimy New York apartment, and faces an increasingly frantic race against time when her oven packs in.
Marie Antoinette, 2006
For anyone who appreciates the sheer aesthetic beauty of Ladurée macaroons, exquisite fruit tarts, and sumptuous cream cakes, Sofia Coppola’s stylish, ultra-feminine movie provides a heavenly, candy-coated all-you-can eat fantasy.
NB This article was written originally for the newsletter of Beyond Chocolate, a series of inspiring workshops that offer a few simple principles to support women to form a healthy relationship both with food and their own bodies.