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Catherine Frot plays a renowned French chef who is appointed personal cook of President Mitterand (Jean d’Ormesson).

The Weinstein Company,

Paul Giamatti as Abraham Zapruder in “Parkland.”

FirstShowing,

Reviewed in brief: 'Parkland,' 'Haute Cuisine'

  • October 3, 2013 - 3:37 PM

PARKLAND
⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rated: PG-13 for bloody sequences of ER trauma procedures, some violent images and language, and smoking throughout.
Theater: Coon Rapids, Inver Grove.

 

“Parkland” gives John F. Kennedy’s assassination the multiple-perspective ensemble treatment. It’s the polar opposite of Oliver Stone’s lively, conspiracy-mongering “JFK.” It’s sober, responsible and rather humdrum.

This is a methodical re-enactment of the shooting and its immediate aftermath as experienced by key bystanders.

Paul Giamatti plays dress manufacturer Abraham Zapruder, shaken to his core by the momentous images he happened to capture on his 8mm movie camera. Ron Livingston appears as Dallas-based FBI agent James Hosty, who maintained a file on Lee Harvey Oswald (Jeremy Strong, eerily still and composed). James Badge Dale plays Oswald’s straight-arrow brother Robert, and Jacki Weaver is their delusional, self-obsessed mother, Marguerite. As she fantasizes about selling her autobiography for a fortune, she preens, “I will never be ordinary again. I’m responsible for two presidents, Kennedy and now Johnson.”

First time writer/director Peter Landesman fills out his story with fascinating asides. There’s a heated showdown between the Dallas medical examiner, who intends to autopsy JFK like any other Dallas homicide victim, and the Secret Service, which makes a heated if legally shaky claim to jurisdiction. Air Force One’s interior walls had to be sawed apart and passenger seats unbolted to accommodate the president’s coffin. Because there were no pallbearers for Oswald, his brother had to ask the attending news photographers to shoulder his casket to the grave.

Landesman strives for a measured, journalistic tone, but his work with the actors is shaky. Weaver’s oddball Mrs. Oswald is magnetic, but she seems to be acting in a different movie than the rest of the cast. The film has its share of ponderous moments and melodramatic posturing, but its fatal weakness is casting famous actors as history’s bit players. When the doctors and head nurse played by Colin Hanks, Zac Efron and Marcia Gay Harden rush to the trauma unit of Parkland Memorial Hospital, the focus of tragedy shifts in the wrong direction. With cameos by Jackie Earle Haley, Mark Duplass and David Harbour, “Parkland” sometimes feels like an extended game of “Spot the Character Actor.”
COLIN COVERT

Haute Cuisine
⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Rated: PG-13, for language. In French with subtitles.
Theater: Lagoon.

 

Don’t expect life-or-death drama in “Haute Cuisine”; one of the biggest points of tension stems from a kerfuffle over cream cheese. Yet this French film, based on the true story of the French president’s first female chef, offers plenty of simple pleasures.

In 1993, Hortense Laborie (based on real-life chef Daniele Mazet-Delpeuch and played by Catherine Frot) is wrapping up a year cooking at a research base in Antarctica. A documentarian learns that Hortense once worked at the Élysée Palace for former French President François Mitterrand and wants to hear more, but the prickly chef has no interest in going down that path. The movie jumps back four years to the day when Hortense lands the palace job.

She finds herself butting heads with the chauvinistic head chef (in charge of larger banquets) and his all-male staff. Thankfully, she works in a separate kitchen with her sous chef, the delightful Nicolas (Arthur Dupont).

The president, who takes a shine to Hortense, asks her to cook simply, and she embraces the task, making such spectacular dishes as salmon-stuffed cabbage, boeuf en croute and St. Honore cakes made from cream puffs and whipped cream. And Hortense is way ahead of the locavore trend, enraging a palace bean-counter over her exorbitant expenses for truffles, meat and delicacies from nearby farms.

Hortense isn’t easily amused or benevolently quirky, the way so many female characters can be. She’s serious, but her passion for recipes and fresh produce proves appealing. “Haute Cuisine” also strays from the typical formula because it’s devoid of a romantic subplot. The movie is simply about what happens when a woman tries to navigate the politics of the palace kitchen.

STEPHANIE MERRY, Washington Post

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