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Eat Drink Man Woman(1994)

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[Movie Reviews]


-Sihung Lung
-Yu-Wen Wan
-Chien-Lien Wu
-Kuei-Mei Yang


Mr. Chu is a master chef with three adult daughters who still live with him. As the three women are growing up, they are looking at their love lives, marriage, and the future. The Sunday dinner ritual is important to Mr. Chu and this is where the four come together every week. It is at the dinner table that many announcements about their lives will be made. As the women look at love and the future, their lives change and with them, so do the lives of the family.


Going into this film, one may likely feel that this will be a standard romance/drama. This is not an unreasonable assumption. The premise is not groundbreaking. In fact, it does not have any big twist to it that makes it stand out. Yet, the film does, in fact, manage to seperate itself from the standard romance/drama that it so closely resembles. Ang Lee manages to create real characters and situations that the viewer truly cares about. A film with characters and situations that draw the reader in so well easily rises to become much more than the sum of its parts.

Eat Drink Man Woman is a touching story of how three young women look at love and the future. The women all go through great changes in the story. The film does not just look at the progression of each of the women and their love lives. It looks at how the entire family works. The interaction between the father and three daughters is key. So, when one family members goes through a change, the entire family dynamic is changed. This gives the film much depth and throws in even more human element. A lot of respect must go to a film that captures a family experience so well.

Characterization is another way in which this films exceeds many others. Each character has a unique personality and once into the film, the viewer will feel comfortably settled with all the characters. The film does not only manage to characterize everyone through their interests, careers, and situations. It manages to also characterize the charaters very well through their mannerisms, speech, and multi-dimensional personalities. Even after much thought, it is tough to name many films that have created characters so well. This is the film's strongest point and the chief reason that the events in the film are of interest to the viewer. If one does not care about the characters, they will not care about what happens to them. Luckily, you will care...

Another thing that must be mentioned is the use of food in the film. Mr. Chu is a master chef and cooking is his great art. His daughters were all brought up around the kitchen and have great memories of it. In fact, it is the Sunday dinner that most of the family interaction and great announcements takes place - a dinner that is very important to Mr. Chu and that the daughters always make it a point to be at, regardless of anything else. It is certainly not downlplayed, but rather his cooking is often shown in great detail to show the care he puts into it, further showing how much it means to him. But, beyond this, or rather because of this, the food and taste is used as an analogy for many of the situations in the film. Mr. Chu feels that he is losing his sense of taste, which symbolises his strained relationships with his daughters. Many conversations use the food analogy and many great sayings and bits of wisdom draw from it. Another great aspect of the film, the food gives us great symbolism as well as keeps a central tie to many things in the film.

Most other aspects of the film flow smoothly because of the aforementioned qualities. The care for the characters makes the situations so engaging. The pacing of the film is perfect and takes its time. Nothing is rushed. The film takes its time to build characters and their situations. Again, the viewer's care for the characters makes this possible because each little detail becomes important and helps build upon the character. The film also does a great job of tying the multiple plotlines together, creating a true interacting universe of people and situations. It also manages not to be too predictable. While setting the stage and sometimes cluing the viewer in on events to come, the film still manages to throw twists into the story - some completely unexpected, others expected but built well. There are also little bits of comedy sprinkled into the film. Not enough as to make the film a "comedy" film, nor is it ever the type of comedy one would see in a typical comedy film - rather just light bits of comic relief that keep the film from becoming overbearingly serious. They are not contrived or silly, but rather realistic yet still funny.

This film is really an unexpected surprise. I was afraid this was going to be too much of a standard romance comedy. I went into it expecting a B- film and came out with an overwhelming A class film. It was engaging and the characters truly grab the viewer's feelings. The characters and their interaction lay the foundation that the entire film is built on, and with such a strong foundation there is no way this film could come crashing down. It makes full use of these strong points and weaves a beautiful story that will not let the viewer go for the full two hours.


-Ang Lee


-Original Mandarin language.