Pension Complète (French Cuisine)
The world of high gastronomy is rarely the site of wacky, screwball-like comedy, but this mixture of serious haute cuisine and light-hearted romcom lowers the inaccessible world of chefs to the sentimental worries of a regular Joe. Cheeky, clumsy (in a good way) and full of sass, Pension Complète (French Cuisine) is a lively and convivial summer movie that tickles both appetite and warm feelings. Florent-Emilio Siri delivers an enjoyable film that won’t stick around in the annals of French film history, but will certainly grant a snug 90 minutes of smiles.
Revolving around a high echelon hotel-restaurant in the South of France, Francois and Charlotte juggle a highly successful restaurant and a dry, intimacy-lacking relationship. As Francois yearns for a Michelin star and his wife for a baby, the couple’s work-focused existence is overthrown by the completely unexpected reappearance of Charlotte’s ex-husband, the former owner of the establishment that everyone believed had perished in the 2006 tsunami. As competition over their “common” spouse and fiery jealousy develop within the improbable love triangle, legal complications put the future of the restaurant at stake.
Cuisine and sophisticated dishes have a fairly marginal place in the film, a fitting directorial choice for the genre’s codes: Francois’ kitchen is merely a setting and the film is not an excuse to indulge in close-ups of entrées and desserts. Florent-Emilio Siri’s feature also works more as a pretty postcard of the Riviera beaches and resorts, rather than as an analysis of amour dynamics. An acceptable amount of easy, bad-taste banter accompanies a good dose of sexual innuendo, as a credible love triangle film should have, but doesn’t go all-in with the gag show. Likewise, Frank Dubosc and Gérard Lanvin are amusing, not hilarious.
Merging chic setting and corniness, Pension Complète mingles with typical French humour, never taking itself too seriously. Despite the saucy jokes and flowing cognac, Siri’s picture doesn’t really come to grips with the sentimental chords it tries to touch. A droll and sober film to enjoy as a starter, not quite strong enough as a cinematic main course.
Pension Complète (French Cuisine) is released in selected cinemas on 26th June 2016.
Watch the trailer for Pension Complète here: