Anthony's Film Review

What's Cooking? (2000)

What's Cooking? delivers a real cinematic feast, celebrating multiculturalism and the American family...

The 2000 drama film What's Cooking? is the kind of movie that everyone can take to heart. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone of every racial, ethnic, and cultural background. This is a movie about people, family, and life, things that we can all relate to, and it's a movie I think everyone should watch at least once. Directed by Gurinder Chadha, What's Cooking? is designed to bring people together. This is something that I believe will be relevant even in the years to come.

The film centers on four families in Los Angeles getting together for Thanksgiving: the Seeligs (a Jewish family), the Williams (an African-American family), the Nguyens (a Vietnamese-American family), and the Avilas (a Latino family). Because there is no one main character, scenes in the film frequently jump from one family to another. This is definitely clear in the beginning as the various characters are heading home, doing grocery shopping, and taking care of other matters before the big holiday celebration. This includes a couple of difficult situations, such as the fact that one of the Seeligs, played by Kyra Sedgwick, is a lesbian with a female lover, played by Julianna Margulies.

What is quite beautifully done in this film is the preparation of the Thanksgiving turkey. Each of the four families has a turkey purchased from a grocery store. However, each of the families is smearing the bird with different sauces and stuffing it with different kinds of food, all according to their cultural traditions. In fact, there's a part in this whole sequence where the instrumental surf tune "Wipe Out" is playing, but the instruments suddenly change depending on which family, and culture, is currently in the scene. After all of this, the families begin to have a nice dinner (in their own traditional ways, of course).

While one could say that What's Cooking? is an inspiring movie, there is tension as each of the four families during the meal eventually faces a crisis situation, including one that is shocking because it involves a loaded gun. These scenes are done just as well as the beginning and middle portions of the movie. I also admire how each of the four situations are things that could happen in any family. It wouldn't matter if the script were rewritten to rearrange the four crises among the four families. The impression would be exactly the same: that all families have their ups and downs to experience and realize in the end that it's worth sticking together.

That is why this film is very well done. It highlights how everyone of every background is alike. Even if there are cultural differences, they are at most minor things that shouldn't distract us from the fact that we're all the same. I should also mention, before I forget, that these four families are still having dinner in their own houses. The one notable connection across families in this film is that a young daughter in the Avila family is in a happy interracial relationship with a young son in the Nguyen family. Even if What's Cooking? doesn't bring each of the four families together under one roof for the same dinner, the fact that they're all celebrating and living life similarly truly makes this film an American film, because it reminds us that the country is a melting pot.

The concept of What's Cooking alone already makes it a great film, but let's not forget the diverse cast members who make it all work. They include Mercedes Ruehl, Kyra Sedgwick, Julianna Margulies, Estelle Harris, Joan Chen, Francois Chau, Will Yun Lee, Alfre Woodard, Dennis Haysbert, and many more. Their performances make their characters so true to life, without any racial stereotypes. Speaking of which, I also think the script is written well such that the movie really looks like a portrait of everyday life. Overall, What's Cooking? serves an unforgettable feast of inspiration, love, and family values.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about What's Cooking?, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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