Don’t watch this film hungry. With all the warmth and savour of other European foodie films like Chocolat (2000) and Babette’s Feast (1987), Éric Besnard’s Delicieux weaves a gentle story about the French Revolution in the guise of a tale about gastronomy, forgiveness and independence.
Manceron (Grégory Gadebois) is a taciturn and bellicose chef in the kitchen of the bewigged, spineless and ridiculous Duke de Chamfort (Benjamin Lavernhe). When he strays from tradition and makes an appetiser with (gasp!) potato, he is dismissed in disgrace. Returning with his son Benjamin (Lorenzo Lefèbvre) to the ramshackle inn of his late father, he loses his desire for cooking until Louise (Isabelle Carré) turns up on his doorstep. She insists on becoming his apprentice (even though “women can’t be cooks”) and he relents.
There is nothing really surprising about the narrative arc as it is one we are familiar with. It’s an ‘against the odds’ tale and one about how men must nurse their wounded pride until a woman shows them how to be successful. Don’t let this put you off, though. Louise is largely a catalyst but she is 40-something and has a small story arc of her own. Manceron is gruff and sometimes abusive but he’s a good guy, happy to share his success and able to admit when he is wrong.
The food is the star, though, and it makes you hanker for good, simple French cuisine; butter, bacon, chicken, herbs and pastry as an art. It should be mandatory to serve patrons a ‘delicieuse’ as the end credits roll.
The political thread is not too deep and it relies on us knowing what is in the near future for the Duke and his cohort. The poor are rather winsome and prettily dishevelled but these are minor quibbles in a warm and satisfying film that your mum will love.
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.