“Tasting Menu”
Have you ever had one of those to-die-for, absolutely incredible gourmet feasts put on by arguably the best restaurant in the world, at a European seaside location on a warm summer’s night that made the whole evening an enchanting experience never to be forgotten?
Neither have I. But this movie makes it look like something we ought to put on our bucket list.
Chef Mar Vidal (Vincenta N’Dongo) has decided that this is the last night. She’s enjoyed this incredibly successful partnership with Max (Andrew Tarbet), who’s handled the business end of things. But like all great artists, she has a certain restlessness, and after doing the same thing for a while, she decides it’s to time to move on and do something different. So here come some of the regular patrons over the years, and some surprises, too, all of whom add to the creative tension of this one, last, best fete de noir.
There’s The Countess (Fionnula Flanagan), who brings her husband’s ashes along in the white ceramic urn, because, well, he would have loved to come, you know. The Countess, however, is far from being dead; being seated by herself, she enjoys observing the other patrons, mainly the young couple in front of her, who seem to be having one of those push/pull conversations.
Marc (Jan Cornet) is a young pediatrician who was married to Rachel (Claudia Bassols), but something about the pressures of both building budding careers just proved to be too much for them as a couple, and they’ve now been separated for almost a year. But they didn’t want to miss this meal. It turns out that Marc has plenty of regrets about the demise of the relationship, and Rachel, though she’s developed into a fantastically successful author, has been confused by developing feelings for her editor, who happens to show up at the restaurant, as well. That makes for some awkward moments. And why are we rooting for the estranged couple to get back together? Well, maybe because the editor is an arrogant windbag who’s condescending to almost everyone, and we’re wondering why we can all see that but Rachel can’t?
A couple of Japanese men are there, but they’re not really together---they’re rival restaurant critics for their respective esteemed publications back home, and one of them even carries an offer to buy the restaurant, and its owners, and move it all to Tokyo. Of course they have to decide if this feast is movable. And if they are.
Well, there are other characters, also, but really, it’s about more than just a meal: it’s about the carefully-crafted drinks in between courses, on the veranda,, the perfect wine at dinner, the music on the beach with dessert, and just the total pampering of the moment, which of course would be very pricey “in real life,” but we’re talking about something beyond price: enjoying the bounty of gracious living without worrying about the calories, the cost, or the consequences. One Enchanted Evening like that could make an indelible memory.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving , Texas