‘Chicken With Plums’ (2011)
The movie is named after an entree, so you know it’s crucial. It’s a favorite dish of an Iranian musician (Mathieu Amalric) whose wife (Maria de Medeiros, from “Pulp Fiction”) breaks his violin during a fight. A decadeslong feud ensues in this fable, which is like a sadder “Amelie,” and which culminates with her making him the dish as a test of his will to live. The lesson (paraphrasing an old truism about London): If you’re tired of chicken with plums, you’re tired of life.
‘Soul Food’ (1997)
Macaroni and cheese, ham and collard greens look incredible in a movie that’s centered around a Sunday family tradition. Bickering and even serious ruptures happen in between Sundays, but no matter what, the table is packed with a ridiculous amount of food in a boisterous comedy/drama where a matriarch (Hall) teaches her daughters (Vanessa L. Williams, Nia Long, Vivica Fox) that food is a way to connect to their past and future.
‘The Family Stone’ (2005)
The pros and cons of a tight-knit clan are demonstrated best with food. Sarah Jessica Parker plays a fiancee who is not welcomed by the Stones. Feeling insecure, her worst behavior comes out in a family dinner where there’s more questionable conversation than consumption. Then, to try to earn their love, she prepares a breakfast strata that ends up all over the floor before it’s even seen an oven. Turns out sliding around the kitchen in spilled food, and the shared vulnerability created by the mess, can bring people together even faster than eating.
In a reverse “Like Water for Chocolate,” its title character (Keri Russell) is a “pie genius” who translates her emotional ups and downs into the confections she bakes for a diner (including “I Can’t Have an Affair Because It’s Wrong and I Don’t Want Earl to Kill Me” pie). Writer/director Adrienne Shelly’s movie inspired a not-as-good musical that was a hit on Broadway and on tour.
‘The Trip’ (2010)
England is usually a punchline when it comes to food. “The Trip” argues that, while its cuisine may once have sucked, it’s now world-class. The improvised comedy features comics Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as versions of themselves, traveling around rural England, competing to see who does a better Michael Caine impersonation and enjoying the heck out of the fare at country inns. The two enact a toxic relationship but they’ve reunited, nevertheless, for sequels in Italy, Spain and Greece.