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‘Delicious’ Review: Ahead of the French Revolution, a Culinary One

A tale about a first restaurant, “Delicious” is more inspired-by concoction than historical treatise. (The first restaurant is really said to have been in Paris, not the countryside setting here.) The French director Éric Besnard’s drama is a sweet and savory tribute to food, pleasure and égalité at a particularly piquant moment in French history: “Delicious” ends with a title card mention of the storming of the Bastille.

Manceron (Grégory Gadebois), the son of an innkeeper, serves at the gourmand pleasure of the Duc de Chamfort (Benjamin Lavernhe). He is a tamed bear of a man, who appears to have resigned himself to his role in Chamfort’s circus of privilege until a disastrous meal. First, Chamfort applauds his prized chef, but when an unctuous clergyman expresses disdain, Chamfort’s guests burst into hyena laughter. Frostily, Chamfort demands an apology from the chef. None is forthcoming. With his son, Benjamin, in tow, Manceron returns to a ramshackle inn his deceased father had owned.

Things improve for Manceron, Ben and the movie when a mysterious woman arrives and begs to apprentice. Louise (Isabelle Carré) has more layers than a mille-feuille. Manceron treats her shoddily, and there’s a #MeToo moment of tension that nods to the ongoing misogyny of the restaurant business. But once Manceron, Louise and Ben start serving travelers and country folk at the inn, “Delicious” begins cooking with gas.

Shot with painterly intent by the cinematographer Jean-Marie Dreujou, “Delicious” is more sumptuous than polemical. If you are wondering whether the film lands on the side of pleasure or gastronomic pretension, let this be the answer: The first words are “du beurre!” — or “butter.”

Not rated. In French, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 52 minutes. In theaters and available to rent or buy on Apple TV, Vudu and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.

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