Monday, September 23, 2013
The first test of a food movie is whether it makes your mouth water.
On that score, "Haute Cuisine" falls somewhere between the lip-smacking deliciousness of "Babette's Feast" and "Eat Drink Man Woman" and the cinematic botulism of "What's Cooking?" Catherine Frot stars as Hortense Laborie, a chef plucked from obscurity (for reasons never satisfactorily explained) to lead the French President's private kitchen. At the Élysée, she bumps up against the pointless protocols and penny-pinching of the Chief of Staff (Hippolyte Girardot) and the resentful territoriality of the entrenched head chef (Brice Fournier). These conflicts feel petty and the stakes very low (we're watching white people problems here), and director Christian Vincent's choice to flash forward repeatedly to Hortense's next job - a year at an Antarctic scientific outpost - adds nothing to the movie but runtime. Same for Hortense's frequent, genial conversations with the Prez himself (Jean D'Ormesson), who just wants her to cook like grandma used to.