What's Cooking [Import]
At first glance, What's Cooking? looks like it was dreamed up by some politically correct screenwriting committee: a series of overlapping stories that intercut among four families (one Hispanic, one Vietnamese, one African American, one Jewish) all preparing for Thanksgiving dinner. But what could be toothless and smarmy is made gripping and genuinely affecting by a mixture of observant writing, fluid direction, and a truly superb ensemble of actors, including Mercedes Ruehl, Alfre Woodard, Joan Chen, Julianna Margulies, Kyra Sedgewick, Dennis Haysbert, and a host of less well known but just as capable others. The script is a marvel of orchestration: small annoyances blossom into fierce conflicts, secrets are deftly revealed, and sanctimoniousness is subtly punctured. The acute but sympathetic portrait of family stress and tension is layered with quiet observations about race and class, as well as the capacity for tolerance and forgiveness. It's recently become a cliché to have characters express themselves through food (examples include Soul Food, Big Night, and Eat Drink Man Woman), but What's Cooking? turns food into a witty exploration of culture as everyone prepares their turkeys in entertainingly different ways--this is not a movie to watch on an empty stomach. Warm without false sentiment, What's Cooking? is deeply enjoyable. --Bret Fetzer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Writer/Director Gurinder Chadha (who will later write and direct Bend it like Beckham) brings us her first "american" film: an exquisite, sweet and even sexy (while brutally honest) look at contemporary family dynamics in present-day L.A, using food (and surprisingly enough, surfer music) as the thread to sew together the trials and tribulations of four "ethnic" families during a Thanksgiving day.
But "What's cooking" is more than "just" a food movie, or a Thanksgiving movie. Through an amazing ensemble cast (including Academy Award winner Mercedes Ruehl), ingenous cinematography, smart direction and an outstanding script, Director Chadra makes us feel the joys and pains of these characters.
The story itself is simple: follow the lives of four West L.A. families (Latino, Vietnamese, Black and Jewish) through a Thanksgiving Day. But immediately we get drawn into very powerful statements about love, family, community, divorce, diversity, racism, politics, tolerance and violence. We identify with these characters because we can all relate to their problems, and their family interactions.
I highly recommend this film because it is beautifully and skillfully done, and because of the great actor performances, particularly the female leads. Alfre Woodard is exquisite and brutally believable as the wife trying to keep her family together. Joan Chen, Lainie Kazan and of course Mercedes Ruehl all give extraordinary performances as the matriarchs of these families. Julianna Margulies and Kyra Sedgwick are a joy to watch as a lesbian couple. Dennis Haysbert ("24", Far From Heaven) is fabulous also.Read more ›
DVD features include subtitles in English, French or Spanish; a commentary track with writer/director Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Backham) and co-writer Paul Berges; interview segments with the director on the characters and on Thanksgiving, with Kyra Sedgwick on Julianna Margulies, with Mercedes Ruehl on the film's premise, with Dennis Haysbert on Los Angeles, with Joan Chen on food, and with Alfre Woodard on Chadha; and recipes for Vietnamese spring rolls, tamales, rustic (apple) pie, macaroni & cheese, noodle kugel and oyster-shiitake stuffing.
Definitely a worthwhile rental.
"What's Cooking" centers around four families living on the same block in Los Angeles. They don't know each other, however, and instead, like most modern families, are focused on their own problems and worries. Chadha makes good use of "the American melting pot" idea, as one family is Italian, one is hispanic, one is black, and one is Asian. One of the most wonderful aspects of the movie is that, even though the people are of different ethnicities, they are portrayed respectfully as human beings. We can relate to each of them. They are different, but the same. Isn't that the underlying truth of us all? People are, indeed, people.
There are some nice performances here: Alfre Woodard is great as a stressed, neglected wife. Dennis Haysbert is quiet, cool and simmering as her husband. Mercedes Ruehl shines as the mother of the hispanic family, trying to move on with her life from an ex-husband that just won't understand that it's over between them. Kyra Sedgwick and Julianna Margulies are endearing as a lesbian couple on their first trip to meet the parents. Estelle Harris (of "Seinfeld" fame) is deliciously wicked as the aunt who just keeps pushing the issue. And, of course, there's Lainie Kazan -- always a treat.
I saw this film at Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival in 2003, and it was very well-received. There are dramatic, serious moments, and then there are quite hilarious moments.Read more ›
The fantastic ensemble cast includes the always wonderful Alfre Woodard as a woman fighting the stress of maintaining peace in her family. Mercedes Ruehl turns in another good performance as a level-headed matriarch rebounding from a cheating husband. Kyra Sedgwick and Julianna Margulies are delicious as a lesbian couple trying not to spar with one set of parents (enably played by Lainie Kazan and Maury Chakin). Joan Chen is also great playing a tradition-based parent losing a battle against her rebelling teenage kids. Toss in Estelle Harris for extra laughs and wonderful turns from much of the supporting cast, and you can't go wrong.
Though the movies' editing is somehwat choppy, it comes together nicely at the end. I'd highly recommend filling your plate with an extra helping of this gem. The enjoyment of laughter, possible tears, and multi-ethnic traditions make this one a winner.
Most recent customer reviews
This movie was great. It shows a typical thanksgiving day in four different households. It goes without saying, there are
problems in every family. Read more
The story is boring, plot-development uninteresting and slow, and the overdramatic cast, especially the younger ones that might benefit from a few years' worth of acting lessons,... Read morePublished on Nov. 21 2002
This is a great movie about families from different backgrounds having their Thanksgiving dinner together. Read morePublished on April 30 2002 by Jodiyo
Simply one of the best movies I have ever seen. All the actors are great and the story lines intriguing.Published on Feb. 19 2002
There are indie films,and then there are stay-with-you always amazing indie films. The cast is only the icing to a tale weaved so subtly the ending would blow you away (well, not... Read morePublished on Jan. 15 2002
Sorry to say that I was not able to walk out of this film. It is
disturbing to find that people respond positively to a such an on-slaught of racial stereotypes. Read more
This is a story of 4 families as they sit down for Thanksgiving Dinner..There are secrets, affairs, and even a child thinkin about shooting someone.. Read morePublished on Sept. 12 2001
This is the first movie I've ever watched which was bad enough to inspire me to write a negative review. This movie is disturbing, depressing, and socially harmful. Read morePublished on July 18 2001