While these movies are not expressly about food, it does have a starring role
When you think of food in the movies, the usual suspects would include the delicious Chocolat (which was tastier — Johnny Depp or the chocolate?), No Reservations (Catherine Zeta Jones and Aaron Eckhart play chefs) the silly Eat, Pray, Love (Julia Roberts finds herself in food) and the lovely Julie & Julia with Meryl Streep playing chef Julia Childs and Amy Adams playing Julie, a blogger who sets out to cook all the 524 recipes in Childs’ cookbook. There is also Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for a sugar rush, the faintly stomach-turning Ratatouille (a rat in the kitchen is hardly appetising) and Sideways (yes, it was mainly about wine, but there was a fair amount of food in the mix as well.)
On the other hand, when you think of Goodfellas or Zombieland, food isn’t the first thing that comes to your mind. However, these movies feature important scenes around food. Here is a look at my favourite food scenes in non-food movies.
Shakespeare’s play that must not be named under BBC’s ShakespeaRe-Told series is set in a three Michelin star restaurant. Sulky, sexy James McAvoy plays Joe Macbeth, the sous chef who is the real talent behind the restaurant. Celebrity chef Duncan Docherty who owns the restaurant takes all the credit. Macbeth’s wife, Ella is the Maître D’ and Billy Banquo is a fellow chef. The witches are replaced by psychic garbage men who predict that Macbeth will take over the restaurant, thus pushing Macbeth and Ella to murder. Visually arresting for juxtaposing hot blood against cold steel tables and knives, the Scottish tragedy gets a modern spin with its picture of ambition in the times of celebrity in this clever adaptation by Peter Moffat.
The Silence of the Lambs
Yes The Silence of the Lambs is about a young FBI recruit, Clarisse Starling in a race against time to catch a serial killer, Buffalo Bill and rescue a senator’s daughter. The multiple Oscar-winning film by Jonathan Demme is based on Thomas Harris novel of the same name. While Jodie Foster’s Clarisse was the right mix of toughness and vulnerability and Buffalo Bill was suitably deranged, the movie belonged to Anthony Hopkins as the cannibalistic Dr. Hannibal Lecter even though he is on screen for slightly over 16 minutes. A brilliant psychiatrist with a penchant for eating anyone who disagreed with him, Lecter ensured fava beans and Chianti would never be the same again.
Martin Scorsese’s gangster movie, based on Nicholas Pileggi’s Wiseguy, tells the story of Henry Hill who as far back as he could remember, “always wanted to be a gangster.” While the movie is typical Scorsese with guns, guilt, sin and redemption, there is a whole lot of food as well. There is Tommy (Joe Pesci) landing up at home at 3 in the morning with a body in his boot. His mother, like all good Italian mamas, rustles up a meal for Tommy and his friends, including Conway (Robert De Niro) and Hill (Ray Liotta). The conversation around the table through mouthfuls of pasta about the poor deer whose paw/hoof was caught in the car is hilarious. There is also Hill’s description of making pasta in prison. “Paulie did the prep work… he had this wonderful system for doing the garlic. He used a razor, and he used to slice it so thin that he used to liquefy in the pan with just a little oil.”
While zombies are ravenous for human flesh, Woody Harrelson as Tallahassee in Ruben Fleischer’s zom-com has a fondness for Twinkies. When Tallahassee talks about “the last box of Twinkies that anyone will enjoy in the whole universe” and “someday very soon, life's little Twinkie gauge is gonna go... empty,” you feel for him. And when he finally gets his Twinkie there is an all-round sigh of relief — almost as much as for Columbus’ first kiss.
Brian De Palma’s magnificent, violent crime saga detailing the rise and fall of Cuban drug lord Tony Montana is all about the excess of the Eighties. Montana, brought to life by Al Pacino, tears into life with a ravenous appetite. When he says “I want what’s coming to me, the world and everything in it,” he is vocalising that all-consuming hunger that can never be satisfied. And so it is that Montana doesn’t eat a meal in the movie. When he goes to see his mother for dinner, he leaves without eating when she asks him uncomfortable questions. Even more horrific is the meltdown at the restaurant where he berates the horrified diners just after he annihilates Elvira.
Consolation prizes should be handed out to Pulp Fiction for the conversations in the diner and also the digressions on quarter-pounders and royale du cheese, Peter Jackson’s splatter fest Bad Taste (aliens harvesting humans for fast food), the grossed out dinner in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom where all manner of food fixes Indy and friends with their cold, cold eyes and the super sexy rolling out of pasta by Andy Garcia and Sofia Coppola in Godfather Part III. And while we are talking about gangsters, there is also the famous dinner in Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables where Al Capone (Robert De Niro) beats one of his associates to death with a baseball bat at table.