Review: La cena perfetta
- A meal can save your life in Davide Minnella’s dramedy, which offers up a delectable blend of haute cuisine, crime and good feeling, and stars Salvatore Esposito and Greta Scarano in lead roles
The Camorra, Michelin stars, love and memory are all key ingredients in Davide Minnella’s new film, La cena perfetta [+see also:
film profile], which sees a tender-hearted criminal and an ambitious female chef cross paths, collide and then come together in an attempt to make their dreams come true and reinvigorate their respective lives. It’s a sentimental dramedy brilliantly adapted to its context - fine dining in Rome (thanks to the on-set presence of an exceptional consultant: Michelin-starred chef Cristina Bowerman) – where a good bowl of pasta and potatoes, if made with heart, can save your life.
Based upon a story by Stefano Sardo (With Or Without You [+see also:
interview: Stefano Sardo
film profile]), the film sees Gomorrah star Salvatore Esposito stepping into the role of a Camorra member who’s actually the polar opposite of TV’s ruthless Genny Savastano. Indeed, Carmine isn’t cut out for the criminal life and he’s having a few problems settling scores, not least because he’s expected to shoot an old friend. That’s why, rather than dooming him to a violent death, his boss Pasquale A’ Scimitarra (Gianfranco Gallo), who treats Carmine like a son, sends the latter from Naples to Rome and entrusts him with running a restaurant whose only real purpose is to launder dirty money. In this sense, the quality of the food they serve is the least of their worries: they simply need to fill up the kitchen with frozen meals and microwaves, issue receipts, stack up piles of banknotes in the safe, and dinner is served.
But all this changes when a young and angry woman called Consuelo (Greta Scarano) takes a seat at one of their tables, all too eager to shout from the rooftops that their food is disgusting. We soon learn she’s a talented chef who has fallen into disgrace following a negative review and that this very restaurant, now run by the Camorra, used to belong to her. As such, Carmine, whose presence is no longer required in Naples and whose Roman exile looks set to go on indefinitely, makes the decision to hire her in a bid to transform this establishment into a high-quality restaurant and to prove to himself and to his boss that he can do far more than “wash” dirty money. For Consuelo, it’s an opportunity to win a coveted Michelin star. But significant quantities of cash are required to create a respectable restaurant. It’s for this reason that Carmine dips into the Camorra’s reserves and, when the numbers don’t add up, he finds himself in deep water.
The strong point of the film is the realistic immersion it offers into the world of haute cuisine: market shopping at dawn, manoeuvring between ovens, scrupulously prepared (real) dishes (by Bowerman), the coarse character of chefs, the figure of the food critic who can destroy careers in a flash, and the long-standing debate between professionals over whether food should be considered an art (however ephemeral) are all convincingly portrayed. The crime element of the movie is slightly more fairytale-esque owing to several hard-to-believe twists which are essential to the plot, but the romantic aspect, by contrast, is sober and far from saccharine. It’s a well-balanced blend of ingredients which is enhanced by a pinch of suspense, and which ultimately reveals a great truth: the best dishes are those with soul, and some flavours have the power to take us back to our childhoods. When this happens – the film tells us – anything is possible… Audiences exiting cinemas will find themselves keen to get cooking.
La cena perfetta is produced by Italian International Film - Gruppo Lucisano and Vision Distribution, which is distributing the movie in Italy (in a special cinema release on 26, 27 and 28 April) and worldwide.
(Translated from Italian)
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