95 minutes | Rated: PG-13
Opened: Friday, February 5, 1999
Directed by Mark Tarlov
Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Sean Patrick Flanery, Patricia Clarkson, Dylan Baker, Christopher Durang (yes, the playwright), Larry Gilliard, Jr., & Betty Buckley
SMALL SCREEN SHRINKAGE: 30%|
LETTERBOX: COULDN'T HURT
Fellas, don't let your girlfriends talk you into this one at the video store. It's 100% pure chick flick, and a dull one at that. If this movie has a place at all, it's as a lonely Saturday night rental. Pick up a pint of B&J on the way home, too.
VIDEO RELEASE: 8/17/99
Mystical, metaphorical romance "Simply Irresistible" a gourmet idea served up like fast food
In "Simply Irresistible," Sarah Michelle Gellar (of the WB's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") plays a restaurateur with a gift for culinary creations that have a magical effect on anyone who consumes them.
The concept -- while partially pilfered from an inventive and spellbinding Mexican movie called "Like Water For Chocolate" -- has the potential to be a great catalyst for an enchanted romance, which is where this picture is trying to go.
On some levels it succeeds. The inevitable recipe-related love scenes are intrinsically sexy, what with all the licking of fingers and passionate meeting of lips that have just devoured delicious desserts. I mean, is there anyone out there whose two favorite things in the world are not eating and sex?
But from its opening moments, "Simply Irresistible" is distractingly discombobulated.
In the very first scene, before we're even told she is the owner of and cook at her recently deceased mother's quaint but financially troubled Manhattan eatery, Amanda Shelton (Gellar) is awkwardly thrust into a sloppy Meet Cute involving a guardian angel named Gino (who is never seen again) and a crab that pinches the leg of a handsome, wealthy, rival restaurateur (Sean Patrick Flanery) while she's chasing the crustacean through an open-air farmers' market.
Gino, it seems, was setting her up to meet her destiny, which involves discovering her talisman talent and putting it to good use in pursuit of this fellow -- allegedly quite a catch despite his anal-retentive habit of charting his romantic satisfaction on a computer spreadsheet.
Gellar and Flanery ("Suicide Kings") definitely have chemistry, and he is deadly charming (although in an unsettling way that is strangely reminiscent of David Cassidy). He's also terrific at playing a guy swept up in feelings he can't wrap his head around.
I admit it, this movie is cute and romantic. But director Mark Tarlov is betting that the manufactured metaphorical gimmick will make the target chick flick audience too swoony to notice that the picture is absolutely riddled with plot holes, continuity errors and good, old-fashioned nonsense.
The pivotal development of the film finds Gellar closing her restaurant the day after a positive and high profile newspaper review so she can fricassee for the grand opening of Flanery's high society bistro after his snobby French chef from central casting resigns in a huff.
Gellar never appears to do anything remotely approaching real cooking. She just stirs stuff a lot with a wooden spoon. (And if a health inspector ever saw this girl cooking in a spaghetti-strapped tank top and tossing her hair around, her restaurant would be history in two seconds flat.)
On at least one of these not-really-cooking occasions she has an empty bowl one second, there's a cut away to Flanery, and two seconds later she's stirring a half-prepared meal.
My notes from the screening included a couple dozen such observations, some admittedly nit-picky, so I won't bore you with the rest. Suffice to say that while many of them are largely forgivable, these problems have a cumulative effect that quickly overtakes the potentially engrossing food-love-and-magic storyline.
Then there's the soap opera-quality dialogue ("This food is the perfect poem I never wrote"), the token black best friend butterfingered into the story almost as an afterthought, and some very forced comedy (a running gag about how all guys play with their belts when they think about sex is painfully contrived).
"Simply Irresistible" isn't without its charms. As I said, Gellar and Flanery have quite a spark between them, the sexualization of the simple act of eating is pretty potent when restricted to characters with speaking roles (unfortunately it gets out of hand), and the supporting cast leaves as much of an impression as the leads, especially Patricia Clarkson ("High Art") as Flanery's petulant, sexy and just a little bit nuts personal assistant.
But this movie is little more than an assembly line affair that trips over its trite conventions and fails to bring any style or grace to an idea that deserved much better.
It might be a guilty pleasure for some, but "Simply Irresistible" never becomes the tasty treat it set out to be.