Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
2015 Tribeca Film Festival Line-Up Announced: James Franco’s ‘Adderall Diaries,’ Olivia Wilde In ‘Meadowland’ & More 2015 Tribeca Film Festival Line-Up Announced: James Franco’s ‘Adderall Diaries,’ Olivia Wilde In ‘Meadowland’ & More First Look: Joseph Gordon-Levitt As Edward Snowden In Oliver Stone's 'Snowden' First Look: Joseph Gordon-Levitt As Edward Snowden In Oliver Stone's 'Snowden' Drew Goddard To Write And Direct Sony & Marvel's 'The Spectacular Spider-Man'; 'Sinister Six' Scrapped Drew Goddard To Write And Direct Sony & Marvel's 'The Spectacular Spider-Man'; 'Sinister Six' Scrapped Premature Oscar Predictions: The 2016 Best Picture Contenders Premature Oscar Predictions: The 2016 Best Picture Contenders Watch: Original Short Film Version Of 'Whiplash' Starring Oscar Winner J.K. Simmons Watch: Original Short Film Version Of 'Whiplash' Starring Oscar Winner J.K. Simmons Watch: Nifty Video Examines David Fincher’s Subtle Repetition Of Framing And Blocking In 'Gone Girl' Watch: Nifty Video Examines David Fincher’s Subtle Repetition Of Framing And Blocking In 'Gone Girl' Sigourney Weaver Says She'll Be Playing A New Character In The 'Avatar' Sequels Sigourney Weaver Says She'll Be Playing A New Character In The 'Avatar' Sequels Margot Robbie Says 'Suicide Squad' Is More 'The Dark Knight' Than 'Avengers'; David Ayer Says Joker Is "Majestic" Margot Robbie Says 'Suicide Squad' Is More 'The Dark Knight' Than 'Avengers'; David Ayer Says Joker Is "Majestic" Kristen Stewart Joins Kelly Reichardt’s Untitled Montana Drama With Michelle Williams & More Kristen Stewart Joins Kelly Reichardt’s Untitled Montana Drama With Michelle Williams & More Watch: Paul Thomas Anderson's Sophomore Short 'Cigarettes & Coffee' Watch: Paul Thomas Anderson's Sophomore Short 'Cigarettes & Coffee' Another Oscar? First Look At Eddie Redmayne In Tom Hooper's 'The Danish Girl' Another Oscar? First Look At Eddie Redmayne In Tom Hooper's 'The Danish Girl' 'Prisoners' & 'Enemy' Director Denis Villeneuve To Helm 'Blade Runner' Sequel, Harrison Ford Confirmed To Return 'Prisoners' & 'Enemy' Director Denis Villeneuve To Helm 'Blade Runner' Sequel, Harrison Ford Confirmed To Return The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far "I F*cked It Up": Neill Blomkamp Says He Wants To Go Back To 'Elysium' And "Do It Correctly" "I F*cked It Up": Neill Blomkamp Says He Wants To Go Back To 'Elysium' And "Do It Correctly" New Looks At Daniel Craig, Dave Bautista, And Lea Seydoux In 'Spectre' New Looks At Daniel Craig, Dave Bautista, And Lea Seydoux In 'Spectre' The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki

Review: French Cooking Comedy 'Haute Cuisine' An Unmemorable Meal

The Playlist By Kimber Myers | The Playlist September 22, 2013 at 9:02AM

Loosely based on the life of French president François Mitterrand’s personal chef, “Haute Cuisine” is a cream puff of a film. It’s sweet and airy without much nutritional value. You will definitely leave the movie hungry, largely because each dish created by Catherine Frot’s Hortense Laborie is more mouth-watering than the last. Do not make the mistake of going to the theater on an empty stomach, because “Haute Cuisine” is like looking at food porn on Pinterest for two hours. We’ll be craving truffles on buttered toast for weeks.
1
Haute Cuisine

Loosely based on the life of French president François Mitterrand’s personal chef, “Haute Cuisine” is a cream puff of a film. It’s sweet and airy without much nutritional value. You will definitely leave the movie hungry, largely because each dish created by Catherine Frot’s Hortense Laborie is more mouthwatering than the last. Do not make the mistake of going to the theater on an empty stomach, because “Haute Cuisine” is like looking at food porn on Pinterest for two hours. We’ll be craving truffles on buttered toast for weeks.

Haute Cuisine

The film is framed by Hortense’s time as a cook at the Alfred Faure base in Antarctica, skipping back to her work at the Élysée Palace. She begins her life at the palace when she’s whisked from her bed and breakfast in Perigord to Paris, based solely on the word of Joel Robuchon. President Mitterrand (Jean d'Ormesson) has tired of the overly fancy cooking of the main kitchen, and he requests for a woman to serve as his personal chef since women are known in France for making simpler food. Clearly, “simple” is in the eye of the beholder as Hortense’s cooking—such as salmon wrapped in cabbage leaves, steamed and cut into elegant slices that sit in a cream sauce—seems elaborate and delicious, but we’re basing this largely on our own sad cooking efforts that still find us struggling to poach an egg. With the help of her sous-chef Nicolas (Arthur Dupont), she revolutionizes the sourcing of the food, taking a farm-to-table approach based on her own life and farm.

While Mitterand appreciates Hortense’s approach, she nearly comes to blows with the male-dominated main kitchen. They argue over supplies, who will make dessert at a function and space in the kitchen’s refrigerator for quickly spoiling oysters (quelle horreur!), but the real source of the animosity is the fear that Hortense is now the president’s favorite. Her ambitious approach to food sourcing and heavy use of fat also has her in trouble with the bureaucracy at the palace, as well as with the president’s doctors. Fast forwarding four years into the future, she has given up life at the palace, serving as the cook for an Antarctic base. Here there is far less difficulty from the men surrounding her. Hortense’s clashes with the main kitchen back in Paris appear overly simplistic, with our saintly heroine always being right and the crew in the main kitchen being needlessly evil.

Haute Cuisine

Real-life chef Daniele Mazet-Delpeuch is the basis for Hortense Laborie, though we’re not sure how much has changed from reality in addition to her name, so it’s tough to tell exactly how villainous the main kitchen’s workers were. Her character in “Haute Cuisine” is always likable, with much of our affection stemming from the charming performance by Frot (“The Dinner Game”). She’s plucky and headstrong in a way that makes the film seem like it should be a feminist treatise on ambitious women in the kitchen, but there’s little up for debate here.

Directed by Christian Vincent, the film has little flair other than the gorgeous shots of the food by Laurent Dailland. The score from Oscar winner Gabriel Yared feels incredibly safe and boring, even for someone who wrote the music for “City of Angels.” Unfortunately, the film itself is so determinedly middle-brow with little to dislike other than how eager it is to please and how wary it is of offending. Unlike Hortense’s flavorful cooking, “Haute Cuisine” is aggressively bland. It’s the type of French film that you’d recommend to people who think they don’t like French films for being arty. There’s little to dislike here but not much to love, other than the absolutely wonderful Frot. [B-]

This article is related to: Reviews, Review, Haute Cuisine, Catherine Frot


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome

E-Mail Updates