Middleburg Review: ‘The Taste Of Things’

Benoît Magimel Cooks For Juliette Binoche In This Decadent French Romance

In Anh Hung Tran’s decadent and indulgent The Taste of Things, Benoît Magimel plays a chateau owner who is heavily involved in the life and work of his cook played by Juliette Binoche. In the opening sequence, which lasts a good twenty minutes, the two work with a fellow houseworker to prepare a lavish meal for Dodin’s (Magimel) dinner guests. 

Taking place in 1885 France, the two have worked together for close to thirty years and though they have an established relationship, they never married. Between long and deliciously shot cooking sequences, Dodin discusses his desire to marry Eugénie while she talks about her longing for freedom. It’s after Dodin cooks a multicourse French feast for her, that she starts to reconsider her feelings towards matrimony. 

Magimel and Binoche’s chemistry is palpable. Whether it’s longing glances over a boiling pot or just how the two discuss food, you can feel the romantic tension wafting off the screen. Binoche’s Eugénie is more reserved with her words but gives the film its grounding anchor. Magimel is much more dominant, taking up dialogue and camera time but provides a frantic sense of urgency that the narrative needs. 

The Taste of Things may have some of the best food porn cinema has ever seen. Cooking sequences last for at least five minutes with minimum dialogue. Hung gives each shot a yellowish-bright warmth that only seems to enhance the food onscreen. By the time Dodin is done making pot-au-feu, you will not only know what it is but how to make it. While these cooking sequences are mesmerizing, the narrative pacing is slow, at times painfully so. There’s an unneeded subplot concerning Napoleon that just diverts the story altogether. Really any throughline that doesn’t have to do with Dodin or Eugénie feels superfluous. At 134 minutes, this makes the runtime feel longer by almost an hour. 

France has selected The Taste of Things as its submission for the Best International Feature category at the 96th Oscars. While I personally believe Anatomy of a Fall is a much more groundbreaking movie, there’s a reason Tran Anh Hung won Best Director at this year’s Cannes. It is a visually beautiful movie with an intriguing story that slightly gets away from itself.

The Taste of Things opens in select theaters February 9th 2024, with an expansion on February 14th.

'The Taste of Things'
Cortland Jacoby
A D.C area native, Cortland has been interested in media since birth. Taking film classes in high school and watching the classics with family instilled a love of film in Cortland’s formative years. Before graduating with a degree in English and minoring in Film Study from Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, Cortland ran the college’s radio station, where she frequently reviewed films on air. She then wrote for another D.C area publication before landing at Punch Drunk Critics. Aside from writing and interviewing, she enjoys podcasts, knitting, and talking about representation in media.
middleburg-review-the-taste-of-thingsA couple reevaluates their relationship after the male makes her dinner in Tran Anh Hung's romantic drama.