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This 2023 movie will seduce you (but not the way you think)

A man takes a woman's hand in The Taste of Things.
IFC Films

When we think of romantic movies, we typically think of traditional romances told in very narrow terms: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy must win girl back. The last couple of decades have loosened those definitions a bit, so now a boy can meet a boy, a girl can lose a girl, and a non-binary person can try to win back another who doesn’t identify on any scale. Yet, while the players may change, the game stays relatively the same; traditional narratives are reinforced, and these plots must have dramatic climaxes to wrap things up.

The Taste of Things is a different kind of romantic movie. It doesn’t rely on an “idiot plot” to move things along; in fact, it really doesn’t have a plot at all. Instead, it’s one of the few movies to let its characters exist and do their thing, which, in this case, is cooking. Food is the central thing in The Taste of Things; it’s what drives the two leads and defines their love for one another. Here are three reasons why you should do yourself a favor this Valentine’s Day and watch this movie.

The film is about three different kinds of love

Four people cook in a kitchen in The Taste of Things.
IFC Films

The plot of The Taste of Things is pretty straightforward. Eugénie is a cook in late 19th century France who has excelled at her craft for decades. Dodin is her former employer who has hired her to make an elaborate for visiting guests at his country estate. Dodin has loved her for years and wants to marry her, but the independent-minded Eugénie is content with the occasional night of passion.

There are three kinds of love affairs at play in The Taste of Things: the love affair between a man and a woman, yes, but also the passion between two cooks and the food they make, and the admiration a person has in seeing their partner do well at the job or craft they are actively doing. Dodin wants to prove his love for Eugénie is enough for her to marry him, and he does so by doing the only thing that will impress her: cooking her a meal.

A woman and a man cook in The Taste of Things.
IFC Films

This interplay of love and work, of the promise of freedom clashing with the obligations of marriage, drives the central romance and what the movie is all about. “Happiness,” Dodin muses at one point, “is continuing to desire what we already have,” and it’s this epiphany that defines his love for Eugénie and what makes The Taste of Things so special.

The lead stars were once lovers (and are the best French actors working today)

A man and a woman embrace in The Taste of Things.
IFC Films

Love stories live or die by the lead actors in them. They have to sell the central romance, and if we don’t believe their chemistry, no amount of artistry or trickery can save it. So it’s already enough that Eugénie and Dodin are played by two of the best French actors working today: Juliette Binoche and Benoît Magimel. Binoche is the more well-known of the two, having acted in such classics as The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Damage, Blue, The English Patient (for which she won an Oscar), Caché, Summer Hours, and 2014’s Godzilla. (Yes, Godzilla. She’s that talented.) Magimel isn’t as known in the U.S., but he’s also been quietly rocking world cinema for the last 25 years in films like La Haine, The Piano Teacher, Little White Lies, and Pacification.

Both actors have a palpable chemistry and a sense of shared history that makes Eugénie and Dodin’s romance believable and resonant. This is a result of their excellent acting, yes, but it’s also the subtext they bring with them as real-life former lovers. Binoche and Magimel were in a relationship from 1998 to 2003 and have a daughter, Hana.

A man and a woman gaze at each other in The Taste of Things.
IFC Films

Knowing this detail brings an extra layer of poignancy to the film’s love affair, which is already brimming with a touch of melancholy. Eugénie and Dodin know each other all too well, and their affection for each other is laced with a certain weariness. You get that sense that Binoche and Magimel’s relationship is, too, and this personal touch is what deepens the film’s romance.

It’s erotic without being pornographic

The Taste of Things - Official Trailer | HD | IFC Films | Ft. Juliette Binoche

For a movie that features one brief glimpse of exposed flesh, The Taste of Things is unabashedly erotic. That’s due, in part, to the way it’s shot. The film’s cinematographer is Jonathan Ricquebourg, and he bathes the kitchens, dining rooms, and bedrooms Eugénie and Dodin wander in with a golden hue that brings a warm, sensual glow to the most mundane of objects.

That includes the food, and I’d be remiss to devote at least a few sentences to all those mouthwatering dishes Eugénie prepares throughout the film. It may sound weird, but The Taste of Things make the preparing, serving, and eating of food — from racks of lamb covered in butter and red sauce to fiery crème brûlées — part of the seduction.

A rack of lamb is served in The Taste of Things.
IFC Films

It’s what ultimately unites the two romantic leads, and it’s what makes the movie so enthralling to watch. I haven’t conducted an official study, but I believe it’s everyone’s dream to be won over with an elaborate French meal, and The Taste of Things brings that fantasy to such vibrant life that it would be a huge mistake to miss it.

The Taste of Things is now playing in theaters nationwide. See it with someone you love, even if that someone is yourself.

Editors' Recommendations

Jason Struss
Section Editor, Entertainment
Jason is a writer, editor, and pop culture enthusiast whose love for cinema, television, and cheap comic books has led him to…
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