Top positive review
The Melting Pot
on September 3, 2003
Much like her 2003 hit movie "Bend It Like Beckham", Gurinder Chadha's "What's Cooking?" is infused with people who love one another very much, and so even though some tough issues are thrown their way, we know that, because of that love, they will get through life's obstacles ok.
"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. The theater was filled with laughter a number of times, and deservedly so. In the end, this is a 'feel-good' film. And one which will also have you salivating throughout, as each family is busy cooking and preparing their Thanksgiving dinners.
This is the second Gurinder Chadha movie that I have seen, and from what I have tell, she seems to really believe the best of people. Yes, we fight. Yes, we quarrel. Yes, we disagree. But at the heart of humanity has to be love and understanding, if we are to get along and survive. "What's Cooking" embodies this sentiment wonderfully. It was a joy to watch.