food in the arts

Prod: Tracey E. Edmonds and Robert Teitel/ Dir: George Tillman Jr./ 20th-Century Fox/ 115mins/ 1997
Soul Food

This film focuses on a family in the 1990s, held together by the affectionate Mama Joe. Every Sunday she makes the family get together for dinner. She and her three daughters prepare the meal. Unfortunately, Mama Joe slips into a diabetic coma and the 40-year tradition comes to an end. Without the attentions of Mama Joe, the family slowly begins to come apart. Lem cannot find a job, and eventually becomes enraged with his wife Bird when he finds out how she got him a job. Terri, furious with Lem because she thinks he attacked Bird, has a goon beat him up. Lem eventually winds up in jail. Terri's husband Miles has an affair with her cousin Faith. This leads to a rather funny scene in which Terri first chases her husband with a butcher knife and then Faith while they are all at a party. Mama Joe dies and Terri decides to sell Mama Joe's house against the wishes of her family. In order to reunite the family Ahmed lures the family back to Mama Joe's for a Sunday dinner.

There are enough shots of food for this film to be considered a food movie. A substantial amount of the plot is also devoted to the food. The best scenes are early in the movie at Bird and Lem's wedding. Later when Mama Joe has died and the family is reunited for a Sunday dinner the preparation of the meal will likely spark an appetite, especially the fried catfish. However, macaroni and cheese just does not compare to timpani, nor is the presentation nearly as elaborate as films like Babette's Feast or Eat Drink Man Woman. The food is certainly more realistic of what a real family eats; but, realistic or not it is far less impressive.


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