Food in Film
Food and film.
They go together like…kids and fireworks. Explosive…sometimes dangerous but essential to the culture.
In celebration of Nora Ephron’s return to the cinema with her latest, an adaptation of the Julie Powell's beloved book “Julie & Julia,” food may finally get the attention it deserves in the world of movies.
Beyond the dancing hot dogs before the feature and its home at the concession stands.
Some of the most important scenes of our favorite movies have featured food as its leading character, dating back as far as that deliciously deceptive apple that totally screwed up what could have otherwise been a delightful afternoon for Snow White.
It has since taken on the roles of romance, think “Lady & the Tramp” sharing a plate of spaghetti or Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt as “just two people who like warm rolls” going for an early morning stroll in “As Good As It Gets”. An otherwise unenthusiastic Toni Collette in “In Her Shoes” finds love in a coworker who just happens to be an expert orderer, winning her heart with exotic dishes like uni, tako and hamachi and promising foie gras with Roquefort-stuffed fig, Scottish wood pigeon with cabbage, porcini cassoulet and chocolate mousse with raspberries and hazelnut macaroon.
Ah yes, food is love. Scarlet Johansson and Chris Evans share a New York pizza in “The Nanny Diaries.” Before he was fighting crime, Christian Bale was leaving Winona Ryder sweet fruits in Little Women.
Ephron is no stranger to food. She’s a self-proclaimed food enthusiast and her book, later the film, “Heartburn” was garnished with recipes. In each film Ephron has had her hands on, food has made its indelible appearance. The meticulous ordering and “I’ll have what she’s having,” moment in “When Harry Met Sally,” Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks bickering over caviar in “You’ve Got Mail.” Most notably however, was “Heartburn” itself, in which a key lime pie serves as the symbol of the turning point in the life of the lead character, also played by Streep. Nobody takes a pie in the face quite like Jack Nicholson.
With her expertise in the subject, “Julie and Julia” is a story that will no doubt serve as every foodie’s wet dream. Word is that Ephron placed special importance on the quality of the depiction of the food on set. The days of fake foie gras are over. A food stylist on set worked laboriously to bring the world of Julia Child and Julie Powell to life.
Symbolic were the cookies that Harold Crick reluctantly allowed himself to taste in “Stranger Than Fiction.” Those chocolate chip cookies, straight from the oven, were a symbol of that feeling that is equal parts childish delight, indulgence, passion and life. It set the course for Will Ferrel’s character and such sweet desserts returned time and time again throughout the film. It was everything he'd been missing.
It was a symbol of passion in “9 ½ Weeks” and teenage sexual ambition in “Varsity Blues.” The hilarity behind the crab cakes in “Wedding Crashers” or the hot sauce in “Dumb and Dumber.”
And of course, holiday movies never fail to feature food in all its prominence. Sarah Jessica Parker bathed in uncooked strata in “The Family Stone,” Robert Downey Jr. sent a turkey airborne in the classic “Home for the Holidays.”
It may just be the only character that's truly able to fit in just about any genre.
Frankly, food and film are as tasty and American as, well, apple pie. I'll leave you with that incomparable scene from “American Pie.”