Movie

Love’s Kitchen (2011) Movie Review

Love's Kitchen aka No Ordinary Trifle

Author Interview

About Love’s Kitchen

Love’s Kitchen also known as “No Ordinary Trifle” is a British rom-com offering a lighthearted escape with a touch of stars on a bed of predictability. It follows Rob Haley, a once-celebrated chef whose life crumbles after a personal tragedy. A chance encounter with a friend (Gordon Ramsay in a cameo) and a run-down pub spark a culinary and romantic revival.

This movie that stars cooking starts with what might as well be kitchen stock footage, continues with narration that is as cliché as it is useless and a title in the opening credits that forgot its apostrophe. I am already asking myself: “Why should I care if the filmmakers don’t, beyond the leads are known or attractive?”. Watching the movie, it is eventually clear that there were some good ideas but even those were not well executed and quickly the movie reveals to be a star-studded bait whose only redeeming feature might be Claire Forlani’s charm.

Charming premises, broken promises

The film’s core concept of a talented chef rediscovering his passion through a new venture is heartwarming. Familiar faces star to enchant us, with Dougray Scott delivering a believable portrayal of a grieving man seeking redemption, and Claire Forlani bringing charm to the love interest. The whole movie is set in a village promising beautiful scenery, picturesque countryside setting to add a touch of rustic charm to the story. The promise of revealing the unknown British cuisine sparkle curiosity and whets the appetite.

But the film falls short of its promises. The rustic scenery is mainly bitume roads and empty streets. The British Cuisine seems to hang on a trifle whose looks or making is not shown

Cooking theme

Popular romcoms starring cooking in their theme are aplenty. The Spanish movie Like Water for Chocolate (1992), The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014) with Helen Mirren, No Reservations (2007) with Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chef (2014) with Jon Favreau are as many examples of a little more than average romcoms that know what it is to talk about cooking. Love’s Kitchen spends time in the kitchen, but does nothing that whets a foodie’s appetite. Beyond the anonymous kitchen stock footage (finishing only!) that betrays the fact this food-themed romance will not show real cooking, the only time they stop to show real cooking is to serve us the cliche “this is how to slice the ingredients” because how else can we make sure the leads get close to each other to kindle any desire.

Love's Kitchen Gordon RamsayThe chef transforms a run-down pub into a successful gastro pub highlighting British cuisine but the only British highlight is the trifle and none of us know what it contains or see it being made, just have to believe it because the characters that taste it say so. I don’t think I can remember anything else the chef cooked because they spent more time saying “British cuisine” or variations thereof than actually showing British cuisine or demonstrating the making of it or enjoyment of cooking it.

Gordon Ramsay

Starring Gordon Ramsay as himself gives gravitas to the fictitious chef’s credentials. Most non-acting celebrities invited to do the same will pull viewers right out of the film back to reality. But Ramsay was adequate. I think we would have believed him more if he was truly pissed off. I blame the director: know your cast, film them at their best. Ramsay is not an actor but a lover of food. All that was needed was to invite Ramsay once to eat exceptionally great food and invite him to the same place the day after and serve him crap and ACTION!

Bloated and Clichéd Plot

love's kitchen 2011 sceneThe predictable narrative unfolds with little surprise, relying on familiar rom-com tropes and offering uneven humour and forced comedy. The comedic moments can feel forced at times, and some jokes in the script falls flat, relying on slapstick humor or awkward situations. Unoriginal and formulaic, the movie feels like a low-budget movie because of its uneven pace and how visually underwhelming it often feels.

Many scenes could have easily been edited out because they raise expectations that they fall short of meeting and benefit neither the plot nor character growth. For example, there is a scene where the daughter is shown to wake up because she heard an intruder; showing us this was absolutely useless since nothing came of it, it was never mentioned again and it made no difference to the plot. This looks like an attempt to create suspens or to play with the viewer’s mind. The pot smoking scene is also nonsensical and was clearly there solely to add to a useless verdict.

Is there any heat in Love’s Kitchen?

The romantic movie formula is particularly transparent, taking away moments that could have been original or even make sense. The lead actors only get together because they are the lead actors because the film spends so much time with unecessary side characters that it misses the opportunity and the necessity to relate the falling in love part. It is hard to believe that it is anything more than sex between the attractive girl of the village and the newcomer. Wanting us to fill gaps such as “she likes him because he can cook and she is a food critic OR maybe she feels guilty for that one review she wrote” just betrays the script’s laziness. The chef wants to cook well again but we have to guess or assume why that is the case; and wait towards the end when he reveals it is because of her, because the film fails to show it (or thinks that just putting two events one after the other automatically links them as cause and effect).

The often-felt necessary third-act conflict ends up feeling just stupid. For once, the chef could have acted as the adult and supposed food lover he is and recognised right then and there that his food was bad and the critic was right and did him a favour. But no, the formula had to be followed, whether it made sense or not and whether it negatively affected character growth and how much it returned on the viewers’ time investment. So the answer to the question “Is there any heat in Love’s Kitchen?” is NO, Love’s Kitchen firmly has its heat turned down, even during the third-act conflict.

Wasted cast, unecessarily bloated cast, underdeveloped characters

With only half as many characters, the movie would have worked far better. The amount of characters did not even give the impression that the movie (or the Boot) was set in a village. The only couple of male villagers who normally visited the Boot actually added nothing. The village “judge” was useless as were the critic’s entourage including the “bodyguard”, the cliche “lord” of the village, the ex, etc. The different stories or semblant of character development they represent add no vital clue to the plot or to the understanding of it. They feel detached from the central plot and make the script sound cheap and unflowing.

The cast performances are uneven as some supporting characters feel one-dimensional. Peter Bowles, Michelle Ryan, Cherie Lunghi, Pip Torrens and Caroline Langrishe are utterly wasted. While he delivers a charming performance highlighted by great comedic timing and charisma that elevates the overall entertainment value, Simon Callow is clearly casted to play a variation of his Four Weddings and a Funeral character.

Depth in Love’s Kitchen

The film’s underdeveloped plot means not only that the story feels predictable but also that it lacks the depth to truly engage viewers. This starts with the lackluster dialogue. The script is at times clunky and fails to deliver genuine emotional moments. At times, the movie wants to address real issues but falls short of articulating them or giving a payoff, leaving them as cliffhangers in a plot where they could have been removed altogether. One of this genuine moments is the conversation between the (critic) daughter and her father regarding his selfish and self-centred approach to life and his inability to take responsibility for the part he plays in events. The issue is brought up naturally and the father gives us a sense of genuine realisation about the pain he may have caused and his being obliviousness to it because of his egocentric nature. The same is raised later by his partner…. all that, only for the script to use this same trait later on in the movie to advance the plot towards its third-act conflict and undo any sense of personal growth created earlier.

The film also asks more questions than it is prepared or has time to address, just to create random scenes that will contribute to its final act as if it were a last minute add-on that did not have time to be organically integrated. These are found throughout the movie like why does the lead female decides to smoke pot, why does the sous-chef smoke pot, what does it matter that one of the characters likes to collect female underwear… Wasting its time in those unecessary scenes prevents the film from building true emotional depth: while it touches on loss and recovery, it doesn’t delve deeply into the emotional complexities of the characters.

Conclusion

Its occasionally uneven pace, the fantasy of movie’s miraculous conversion from one review into instantaneously booked seats for weeks, the reeducation of the selfish father that had no payoff, the almost accepted American xenophobia, were as many additional reasons to derail this film. My utter annoyance at the overall laziness of this star-studded bait dissipates as I expose the waste of time it is. The movie’s only redeeming feature is Claire Forlani’s eyes and overall charm although even though she is helped neither by the script nor by the direction.

“Love’s Kitchen” is a forgettable rom-com short of mediocre. It’s a potential choice for a relaxing evening if you’re looking for a lighthearted story with a predictable happily-ever-after ending and some familiar faces. However and in spite of its premises, don’t expect groundbreaking humor, emotional depth, a true foodies’ heaven, or a fresh take on the genre. Its blandness, uneven plot and underdevelopment prevents it from being a truly satisfying cinematic experience. But if you crave originality, sharp humor, or a more nuanced exploration of relationships, you might want to look elsewhere.

Love’s Kitchen is available on Amazon Prime Video