A widowed Senior Master Chef (no connection to Lloyd Grossman) living in Taiwan with his three daughters prepares elaborate meals every Sunday, but has less control over the lives of his tempestuous family.
Writer-director Ang Lee followed up his Oscar-nominated The Wedding Banquet with an even more involving, amusing and impressively accomplished film; a densely plotted, character-rich dish of family dynamics, emotional complications and culinary skills that celebrates those most basic requirements in life - sex and food.
A revered Taiwanese master chef Mr. Chu (Lung) is the cantankerous, widowed father of three single daughters. The youngest, Jia-Ning (Yu-Wan Wang), works in a fast-food burger franchise. The eldest, lonely and religious schoolteacher Jie-Jen (Yang), is expected to look after their father for life. While in the middle, beautiful, resentful Jie Chien (Wu) is a high-flying executive eager to break away from the family and her father's fastidious, ritualised meals.
Food preparation is a central metaphor in the film, an elaborate act of love that substitutes for conversation, leaving the family dinners (maddeningly untouched) as fraught with unexpressed matters of import as in families in conflict the world over. Meanwhile, the troubled principals are engaged outside the home in separate trials of frustration, desire and romance that produce a whole series of bombshell revelations back at the dinner table.
This is a startlingly superior piece of craftsmanship, with the flavour of life and richness of the script conveyed via uniformly wonderful performances. Above all, though, it's Lee's foodie masterstrokes, as Chu prepares his elaborate menus, that make the film so mouth-wateringly unforgettable.