Sub grub blub

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM - TARA BRADY

THE FOOD GUIDE TO LOVE ★★ Di­rected by Do­minic Harari and Teresa Pele­gri. Star­ring Richard Coyle, Leonor Watling, Si­mon De­laney, Bron­agh Gal­lagher, David Wil­mot, Lor­can Cran­itch, Ger Ryan 15A cert, 91 min Ap­par­ently, cin­ema is bro­ken this week. And so we’re stuck with the weak­est batch of new re­leases since, well, around this time four years ago. All are nom­i­nally aimed at women – or some pre­his­toric con­cep­tion of same. Funny that.

Ex­hibit A is The Food Guide to Love, a Span­ish-Ir­ish co-pro­duc­tion that moves through fa­mil­iar romcom beats with lit­tle, if any, distinc­tion. Food fight? Check. Meet cute mo­ment? Check. Naked man gets locked out of apart­ment? Check.

The char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion is even more pre­dictable. Celebrity food writer and prac­tised cad Oliver (Richard Coyle from Grab­bers) has yet to get pass the six-month mark with any ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ship. En­ter Bib­iana (Leonor Watling), a gor­geous, earnest Span­ish girl.

The cou­ple have lit­tle in com­mon. She’s emo­tion­ally hon­est; he’s a big jerk. She cu­rates art; he’s a big jerk. She’s an ill-de­fined ac­tivist; he’s a big jerk. But some­how they get to­gether for will-they-make-it/ won’t-they-make-it tus­sles, set against naff in­te­ri­ors and Dublin’s ti­dier streets.

The Food Guide to Love was filmed here as an af­ter­thought. De­spite some lo­cal phras­ing-grafts by play­wright Eu­gene O’Brien (cod­dle gets high billing), the film is about as Ir­ish as paella. Pick­ing up where such Celtic Tiger pic­tures as Gold­fish Mem­ory and The Trou­ble with Sex left off, Food Guide looks spec­tac­u­larly anachro­nis­tic. Its sense of Cool Dublinia is not sim­ply out of step in the cur­rent cli­mate, its bor­der­line of­fen­sive.

Real-world com­pli­ca­tions wouldn’t mat­ter so much if the script was fit for pur­pose. But ev­ery (very) small de­vi­a­tion from the form sounds a bum note. The genre tim­ing is off: Oliver’s BF (re­li­able Si­mon De­laney) doesn’t ap­pear for sound­ing-board du­ties un­til well into the sec­ond act. The di­a­logue is yel­low pack. Comic side­kicks, in­clud­ing David Wil­mot’s en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivist, don’t get nearly enough screen time. A sub­plot con­cern­ing Oliver’s par­ents is so tacked on you can see the Prit­stick smears.

Coyle and Watling twin­kle with enough lu­mi­nos­ity to tran­scend their mea­gre roles. But mostly the film re­minds us why Hol­ly­wood has given up on rom­coms.

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