The Food Club (M) - 99 minutes
Underpinning this Danish comedic drama is a story about growing old with fun, notwithstanding some challenges, but I am afraid I found The Food Club excruciating to watch.
It is a transparent, manipulated, manufactured pap.
Marie (Kirsten Olesen) Vanja Friis (Kirsten Lehfeldt) and Berling (Stina Ekblad) are childhood friends who get together periodically, although Marie tends to find any excuse not to.
Marie has been married for 44 years to Henrik (they work together as accountants), but he appears a distant figure.
At Christmas, when their offspring present them with a trip to Italy for an exclusive cooking class, Henrik is none too pleased.
It turns out he is having an affair, so a mortified Marie is joined, instead, by school pals Vanja and Berling.
Vanja is a retired teacher who dotes on her dog more than her daughter. She lost her husband, Jens, eight years ago, but remains devoted to him and his memory.
Berling is more of a free spirit – an auctioneer who fell pregnant to a married man and then was afraid of being a bad mother, so she sent her daughter off to boarding school.
Also on the cooking course at a beautiful Italian villa in Apulia is a couple reaching middle age – Morten (Rasmus Botoft) and Mette Lauridsen (Mia Lyhne)
– who have a ten-year plan to visit all the world’s cuisines.
They are into health and fitness and remaining youthful, but she is about to confront an inconvenient truth.
And finally, there is Jacob (Troels Lyby), a landscape gardener with two teenage boys who loves Italy and Italian food.
Their amiable host and chef is Allessandro (Michele Venitucci).
Issues abound during his charges’ stay.
I hardly think The Food Club could be any more predictable than it turned out to be.
Director Barbara Topsøe-Rothenborg has brought a heavy hand to the screenplay by Anne-Marie Olesen Thinghuus.
The film has no self-belief and therefore I, too, struggled throughout to believe it was anything more than actors acting … and not very convincingly at that.
I didn’t buy the relationship Jacob has with Vanja, not because he is considerably younger, rather it simply didn’t ring true, nor Marie’s attempted muscling in on the couple.
Very little happens for the first hour and then a series of dramatic moments are introduced to try to keep us interested. Most are quickly dispensed with.
There is some nice scenery and mouthwatering food shots, but little more of merit here.
The three ageing women talk sex to try to spice things up, but I wanted and expected so much more.
If obvious is what you are looking for, then The Food Club may be worth a look (think a poor cousin to Book Club).
Otherwise, give it a miss. It is mighty hard work.
Rated M, it scores a 2 out of 10.