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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - Stephen Fitz­patrick

GIVEN the end­less fas­ci­na­tion for cook­ing shows in this coun­try (and, pre­sum­ably, ev­ery­where else) it seems a lit­tle sur­pris­ing that a French com­edy about cook­ing shows wouldn’t go gang­busters. Le Chef (Icon, M), which opened in cinemas here in the mid­dle of the year, didn’t ex­actly do that but I can’t help but won­der whether it’s not the fault of Aus­tralian au­di­ences hav­ing cer­tain ex­pec­ta­tions of what they think a French film should be like.

Di­rec­tor Daniel Co­hen has a deftly high­en­ergy touch with his tale of celebrity chef Alexan­dre La­garde (Jean Reno, huge in France but also well known abroad for films such as Ronin and The Da Vinci Code) and un­schooled culi­nary ge­nius Jacky Bon­not (Michael Youn), the lat­ter passionate about run­ning his own restau­rant but peren­ni­ally un­able to fol­low the rules that would get him a proper job, let alone en­able him to keep it. In fact, he has just been fired from three jobs in quick suc­ces­sion — and, what’s more, his beau­ti­ful but long-suf­fer­ing girl­friend Beatrice (Raphaelle Agogue) is ex­pect­ing their baby, so un­less he can pro­vide her with some se­cu­rity, things look grim.

Jacky gets a job paint­ing win­dows at an old folks home (and a very flash-look­ing old folks home it is, too) but in the blink of an eye he’s in the joint’s run-down kitchen, re­design­ing the menu. It’ll never work, the cooks tell him; the old folk don’t like change.

Well, one thing leads to an­other and, of course, you knew it would turn into a buddy movie be­tween the two chefs, with the in­flex­i­ble and grumpy older man hav­ing a grad­ual soft­en­ing to­wards the younger up­start and even tak­ing him on as an in­tern at his restau­rant, La­garde’s. It’s a three-star es­tab­lish­ment firmly rooted in cook­ing styles of the past, and trou­ble is around the cor­ner be­cause the boss wants to in­tro­duce the new fad of ‘‘molec­u­lar’’ cook­ing.

All sorts of slap­stick in­volv­ing ex­plod­ing food and a He­ston Blu­men­thal-styled Span­ish chef en­sue and, for any­one fond of cook­ing shows, there are plenty of know­ing gags. The in­te­ri­ors are beau­ti­ful, too. A FRENCH co-pro­duc­tion of a dif­fer­ent sort is

Cos­mopo­lis (Icon, MA15+), based on the Don DeLillo novel of the same name. Star­ring Robert Pat­tin­son and di­rected by David Cro­nen­berg, it’s about as far re­moved from what­ever a typ­i­cal French com­edy is as you can imag­ine. I in­clude it here be­cause Cro­nen­berg usu­ally has in­ter­est­ing ideas, although he can be patchy. East­ern Prom­ises, in 2007, worked well, as did last year’s A Dan­ger­ous Method. Pat­tin­son, on the other hand, is a di­vi­sive fig­ure — di­vi­sive, that is, if your defin­ing terms are ‘‘teenage girls’’ and ‘‘ev­ery­one else’’. Here he is his usual wooden self, even if the story had po­ten­tial: the 28-year-old bil­lion­aire trader trav­el­ling across town in his limo to get a hair­cut amid fast-un­rav­el­ling so­cial un­rest and the traf­fic jam from hell. The story plays out in the car, with ev­ery­thing from busi­ness meet­ings to sex­ual trysts in the back seat. With some­one more grip­ping in the lead, it might have had more to it. Still, see what you think.

This week

Hope Springs (M) Road­show (122min, $25.95)

The Sa­mar­i­tan (MA15+) Uni­ver­sal (90min, $27.95)

Moon­rise King­dom (PG) Uni­ver­sal (107min, $24.95)

To­tal Re­call (M) Uni­ver­sal (461min, $24.95)

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