Love’s Kitchen aims for the middle-weight romcom market but got drunk before it pulled the trigger and fired the bullet into its own foot. These kinds of unchallenging romantic comedies stick quite rigidly to ‘the formula’ and try and win the audiences over with a charming cast, witty jokes or boobs. The fact that this film appeared to forget that there even was an audience means that I am forced to attempt to show the producers how they could have made a better film without risking the precious ‘formula’.
1) Introduce the Characters
We’re welcomed into the film by our main character, Rob, a gourmet chef who works in a pub called The World’s End. He talks over a montage of him preparing food, insisted that good cooking should be full of heart, which is fine by me as I’ve always been a fan of offal. And this is an offal movie (sorry). In his inner circle is his business partner, Beard, a loveable hapless rogue; his sous-chef, Chef, who exists purely to suspend our disbelief that Rob runs his kitchen single-handedly; his twelve-year-old daughter, Daughter, who’s willing to be friends with anyone and would probably take sweets from a stranger; the kitchen-helper-girl/waitress, played by Michelle Ryan, who I’ve always had a bit of a crush on. Rob has a French wife, but she isn’t in this film for very long because, after Rob chastises her for driving whilst on the phone she promptly attempts to call him back and drives straight into a tractor. Frankly, they should have edited the entire film down to that one scene and tried to sell it to the Think! road safety campaign.
How to improve this section: Give Daughter a naughty dog that keeps trying to steal the food in the kitchen, much to the annoyance of Chef. This can be used for dramatic tension later in the film when the dog goes missing and Chef introduces a new ‘mystery casserole’ to the menu. Also, they should make Michelle Ryan blind so they can introduce some ‘hilarious mishaps’ as she attempts to serve food in a seeing-man’s world.
2) Add a Dream/Dilemma
You need to catapult your characters into the main narrative of the film and to do this, Love’s Kitchen brings in Gordon Ramsey. You see, Rob has lost his cooking mojo since his wife died (3 years ago now, by the way) and his pub has long fallen from grace, highlighted by a terrible newspaper review that he cuts out and keeps. Freshly carved totem pole, Gordon Ramsey, is old friends with Rob and he swaggers on over to Rob’s gastro pub to tell him to buck his mother ****ing ideas up for ****’s sake – always a sympathetic soul, Ramsey.
Rob contemplates this deeply, while absent-mindedly making a trifle. Chef and Michelle Ryan have left him and Beard is wandering around confused most of the time: things have got to change. Maybe Gordon was right. Daughter and Beard taste the trifle and declare it amazing! Could Rob have his mojo back? Has Ramsey magically solved another kitchen nightmare? There’s only one way to find out: with a ridiculously risky venture! Rob is going to buy aquaint village pub and start a new restaurant, with all new mojo and a whole lot of heart! He rounds up the old gang and they eagerly follow their failed mentor to wherever his fantasy ambitions may lead them!
How to improve this section: Gordon ties a time-bomb to Daughter, which can only be unlocked with a Michelin Star. The timer will run to zero in two weeks time – can Rob and his motley crew get the restaurant up to Michelin standards or will he lose his only daughter and the only genetic link to his late wife? Meanwhile, Michelle Ryan falls asleep in the sun got an all-over burn and can only continue work in a bikini. They are forced to change the pub theme to ‘Ibiza Beach Fantasy’ so that she can carry on her duties without it seeming too weird.
3) Introduce the Unfamiliar
Our characters relocate to the pub, The Boot, in a tiny village called Wooten Dusset. Unfortunately, the pub only seems to have two patrons: two old men who I suspect are gay lovers . Another misfortune: Rob seems unable to drive at over 20mph since his wife died, so he manages to piss off the entire village on his drive over. He insists to the pub landlord and the aged clientèle that he ‘doesn’t do pretentious, [he] does real food with real heart.’ In fact, he says his food has ‘heart’ so often that I genuinely wonder if there’s going to be some kind of sick twist at the end of the story.
As Rob and the gang work on renovating The Boot for their grand opening, various village folk pass through to make themselves known, notably Max Templeton, some old duffer who hates change: ‘If you ruin the [the pub] I’ll disembowel you with a church spire,’ – alright, grandad! Similarly, James Forrester is a young, rich, toff who swings in the same circles as Max Forrester and seems to dislike Rob on principle. Possibly because he doesn’t own any land.
In the meantime, a potential romance is brewing in the kitchen. Beard clearly likes Michelle Ryan but is far too shy to express himself, and Michelle Ryan might like Beard in return. See if you can figure out if there’s any chemistry brewing in this dialogue:
[Michelle is bent over a kitchen surface, cleaning. Beard looks on]
Michelle: You staring at my arse, again?
Michelle: Nice shape is it? Think it’s firm enough for you? Wanna give it a quick squeeze, see if it’s ripe?
Beard: Do you want a cup of tea?
How to improve this section: Introduce an evil tyrant working for the Highways Agency, who intends to drive a motorway through the village unless the old town of Wooten
Basset Dusset can raise enough tourism to justify its existence. The town can turn to Rob and his crew to create the finest gastro-pub in all the county. Also, make the town members act really creepy and aloof, while the whole time they appear to be constructing some kind of giant wicker man. There should also be another guy in the village who was previously the only bearded fellow, before Beard came along. They will spend the rest of the film engaging in an elaborate ‘beard off’.
4) Introduce the Obvious Love Interest
All middle-weight romcoms have a love interest that should be obvious from the very beginning, even if the characters hate eat other and are a different species and one character killed the other character’s parents. In this case, the love interest is Kate. As Kate enters The Boot a guitar chord strums for the audience and we know immediately that she and Rob will be together, even though Rob dislikes her because she is a food critic. Rob hates food critics because he used to get bad reviews when he was a shitty cook in a shitty pub. Rob hates it more than anything when people do their job.
Not only is Kate a food critic, but she is the daughter of Max Templeton, professional grumpy old man, and an ex-girlfriend of James Forrester, professional wank-tit. James Forrester is still after Kate and to prove his love, he steals her underwear from her room. This will be Rob’s competition for Kate’s heart: a complete moron who violate’s his ex-girlfriend’s privacy. Hmmm…
How to improve this section: Setting Kate up as Rob’s worst enemy – the food critic – is a good start, but it should go further. She should harbour a terrible secret about her past life as a tractor driver and look uncomfortable when Rob reveals the details of his wife’s death. Also Max Hastings should be the Highways Agency tycoon. And Beard should be the ex-husband of Kate, throwing Michelle Ryan into confusion: ‘no wonder he likes looking at my arse…’ she’d say.
5) Make Things Great
You need to show the characters climbing the ladder of success and coming within a hair’s breadth of their dreams. In this case, Rob and the gang refurbish the pub and launch the new Boot without any difficulties at all. The secret to their success? Rob’s Trifle of Mourning (see section 2). It’s so delicious that the old men, the villagers and even Kate are won over to Rob’s management of The Boot. (At this point, my wife and my friend have got bored and got into a very serious debate over whether Michelle Ryan’s boobs could be classified as ‘big’ or not. This debate will last the entirety of the film and reach no resolution.) People start travelling from miles around just to try Boot food and the Trifle of Mourning. The traffic through the village becomes nightmarish, causing Max Templeton to storm into the kitchen, screaming, ‘You’ve ruined it!’. Unfortunately, he does not fulfil on his promises of church spire buggery. Michelle Ryan even stands in her bedroom door, trying to seduce Beard, but Beard doesn’t understand and wanders off.
The jelly on the trifle? Rob and Kate fall in
love like, smooching their faces off in the kitchen and eventually taking it all the way to the bedroom. ‘It’s been a while,’ says Rob. ‘Me too,’ says Kate, so we can conclude that their off-screen sex was terrible. Kate, ever the critique, even rates him: 3 out of 5 stars. Okay you are off the clock now, Kate.
How to improve this section: Things are going well in a monumentally boring way. We could have montages of ridiculous food mountains and over-the-top cakes with eccentric diners tucking in and dancing on the tables. The Chef could get over his fear of… spoons or something. Things could be funny and firey and spectacular. Rob could become crazy-arrogant with success and force Chef to create meals ‘never before seen on this Earth’. The thing about the ‘things are going great’ sections of films is that you are supposed to feel great too and not want things to go tits up, but right now I want Daughter to get addicted to cocaine and stab Beard to death in a drug-addled rage just to get things moving.
6) Introduce a Deadline
Here we have to test the new-found strengths of our characters. In this instance, I have to tell you about Simon Callow. The booming Shakespearian actor seems to have been tricked into appearing in this film, perhaps the original title was Much Ado About Kitchens or Romeo and Kitchenette. Either way, he’s here an he’s an alcoholic TV food critic. We’ve seen him throughout the film, fronting his unbelievably successful show. I say ‘unbelievably’ literally: the show consists of a fixed camera watching him work his way through a 3-course meal, while mumbling Callow-esque critique between bites; it’s like being stuck in a room with your drunk, bottle-cap-collecting uncle. Monumentally dull.
Anyhow, Callow has decided to grace The Boot with his presence, so the guys have to pull out all the stops to prepare themselves for the meal of their lives. I don’t know why though – the village roads are already full to capacity, so how many more patrons can the pub take?
How to improve this section: I believe I have already solved this section with both Ramsey tying a bomb to daughter and the Highway Agency tycoon threatening to flatten the village. But perhaps this village can also be visited by Dustin Hoffman and the Outbreak monkey.
7) Make Things Terrible
Just when our characters are going from strength to strength and look like kicking ass on Callow’s show, you have to drop a ton of bricks on them. They don’t even have to be metaphorical bricks: a team of tremendously disabled chefs trying to overcome their injuries and reach the pinnacle of cuisine would make for a great show.
Anyhow, the film makers are far less daring than this and choose to topple our intrepid restaurateurs using the dual force of Max and James. Max hates the pub because it has brought tourism to the village and James hates the pub because it contains too much Rob and too few knickers. So James chucks a bag of rats in the kitchen while Max organises a surprise visit from a health and safety inspector. They’re going to shut Rob down! Not only that, but Rob finds out that the legendary review of his crappy old pub – the one that was so terrible it caused Gordon Ramsey to kick his arse into gear – was written by Kate! He’s furious!
Kate manages to soften Max’s grumps with some Trifle of Mourning, but surely it’s too late now? Callow is on his way to review his restaurant, but Rob has to meet the council to defend himself. WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN.
How to improve this section: Come on! We need real drama. We need to find out that Kate had AIDS and knew about it before sleeping with Rob. We need Daughter to feel ignored by a dad who’s too work obsessed, so she burns the pub down. We need to find out Beard likes putting his willy in the pickle slicer. We need Michelle Ryan to do… something. Anything will do! Why is she in this film?
8 ) Everything Works Out / Happily Ever After
We need to bring the film to a close. Seriously, please end this film.
With the tension at critical mass – Callow is setting up, Kate has run to the Council to defend Rob, my wife is screaming that Michelle Ryan’s boobs are definitely ‘not big’ – we need something to save the day. Traditionally in these films, the crises are avoided through a method that brings our love interests together and helps them to learn something about themselves. In this case, Kate saves the day by revealing that the trifle was so good, that Max has withdrawn his complaint. She also throws her knickers at James in the council meeting. Case dismissed!
Meanwhile, Rob cooks up a storm for Callow, who thinks his food is delicious. If ever there was a scrap of tension in this film, it would have been relieved at this point and I would be cheering. But everything is sooooo dull and a trifle predictable.
How to improve this section: James Forrester steals the secret ingredient to the Trifle of Mourning and Rob has to chase him across the countryside as they ride motocross bikes. James has a golf club and Rob has a chef’s knife and they duel and ride like ancient warriors, ending with Rob snatching the trifle from James’s hands before peeling away, smarming, ‘that’s the thing about high society, James… it’s a long way to fall!’ James looks confused but then turns to see he’s heading towards the edge of a cliff! He falls and explodes.
Normally we’d catch up with our characters a month later to see their lives are in perfect order. A few jokes are exchanged and the camera pans away to a recent, jaunty pop song.
In this case, we get to see Gordom Ramsey watching the film on his laptop, sighing contentedly and then berates us, the viewers, for watching this film when we could be doing better things with our lives. And I don’t think there’s a more honest ending than that.
Love’s Kitchen has all the ingredients for a good film, in theory: a decent cast, a potentially funny cameo, a scene set for quirky English Characters (a la Saving Grace) but seems to have decided that having an incredibly brief Gordon Ramsey cameo would carry the entire film. If I had to build the film around Gordon Ramsey, I’d create a cripping love story around one of Gordon’s Kitchen Nightmares episodes. Gordon would come to turn the shitty kitchen into a great one, and the kitchen staff (under tremendous Ramsey pressure) learn to love each other in a metaphorical parallel to the lessons Ramsey teaches them around kitchens. Example: Ramsey says, ‘You shouldn’t keep mayonnaise bottled up for years, it’ll go bad,’ would parallel to ‘Mona and Trevor shoudn’t keep their secret love bottled up for years, they’ll only learn to hate each other. Unbottle that love and spread it thick.’
Seriously, I am available for screenplays.