DELICIOUS (Délicieux)

Samuel Goldwyn Films
Reviewed for &, linked from Rotten Tomatoes by Harvey Karten
Director: Éric Besnard
Screenwriter: Éric Besnard, Nicolas Bourkhrief
Cast: Gregory Gadebois, Isabelle Carré, Benjamin Lavernhe
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC,
Opens: January 14, 2022

It’s only mid-January so to say that “Delicious” is the most charming, feel-good movie of the year does not sound like a helluva judgment, but come December, mark my words: it will seem as marvelous as it was in January. You don’t have to be a foodie to love it, though that would help. You need only to have a sense of humor that can appreciate the subtleties, a sense of history, a view of the film as a symbol of the revolution to come.

Éric Besnard, who co-wrote and directs, is known in part for his 2015 work “The Sense of Wonder” (Le goût des merveilles) about a widow with two children who takes care of disturbed person she hit with her car. “Delicious” also deals with a fellow who is not exactly mentally disturbed but he is grumpy and depressed and in one lovely scene he is taken care of during an illness by a woman who incrementally raises his spirit.

Said to be a look at the creation of France’s first restaurant, this is not true as the premier establishment war born not in the countryside but in Paris in 1782, seven years earlier. But this is historical fiction and inaccuracies of this sort can easily be tolerated. Of course there have been inns in the Middle Ages but none quite fit the category of a place where people can come for an hour and order from a menu with distinct choices.

Don’t expect the establishment to be something like New York’s Per Se or the Chez Casimire in Paris. In fact its origin began on cusp of the French Revolution when the bearded, rotund Pierre Manceron (Grégory Gadebois) served as private chef for the Duke of Chamfort (Benjamin Lavernhe) in the lord’s castle. During one feast, a dozen or more people are sitting around a large rectangular table in the duke’s quarters marveling at the servings on a groaning board. Each of the aristocratic guests delivers a favorable review of this dish and that dish until a member of the high clergy throws a plate on the floor disgusted that Manceron serves a potato. Root vegetables to him are fit for pigs, a comment resulting in an orgy of pig imitations. The chef is fired, returning to serve food at an inn. His situation will change when Louise (Isabelle Carré) shows up to apply an apprenticeship. At first Manceron declines, calling her too old to go with a three-years’ study, but he gives in, wondering what sort of life she led to be homeless and poor. Her secret will come out and serve to propel the goings-on for the rest of the film.

Of course the chef will meet the duke again during his visit to the inn, leading Monceron to grovel and ask to be returned to his old job. Louise steps in to inspire her boss to think more grandly, therein leading to the creation of a genuine, menu-driven restaurant.

Of the splendors in the film, the principal one is its painterly look, several scenes making us think that if the film were to stop in its tracks, a splendid photograph or oil canvas would arise. You can picture framing each for your home, all thanks to Jean-Marie Dreujou’s photography. If you were taking European history in high school, teachers could profit from showing “Delicious” to classes, pointing out how the bewigged aristocrats patronizing the indoor-outdoor facilities would draw hostile looks from the surrounding bourgeois customers. What better way of showing class differences than using the restaurant as a symbol of the transpiring revolution?

The ensemble of actors is thoroughly professional, Grégory Gadebois looking every bit the big-bellied chef that people in his profession are expected to be. Similarly Isabelle Carré, whose character at first walks in such a way that the chef guesses that she is either a noble or a whore, convinces, as she ignores her firing by the gloomy food preparer and goes on to be the catalyst for the establishment. At base, gluttony is the name of the game, the cast and crew doing their best to make their theater audiences ravenous.

112 minutes. © 2021 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – A-
Overall – B+

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By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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