Soul Food



Notes: 20th-Century Fox. 115 minutes.
Mama Joe: Irma P. Hall
Terri: Vanessa Williams
Miles: Michael Beach
Faith: Gina Ravera
Maxine: Viveca Fox
Kenny: Jeffry D. Sams
Bird: Nia Long
Lem: Mekhi Phifer
Ahmed: Brandon Hammond

Director: George Tillman Jr.
Producers: Tracey E. Edmonds and Robert Teitel
Screenplay: George Tillman Jr.
Cinematography: Paul Elliot
Music: Lisa Coleman and Wendy Melvoin

Summary: This film focuses on a family in the 1990s, heldtogether by the affectionate Mama Joe. Every Sunday she makesthe family get together for dinner. She and her three daughtersprepare the meal. Unfortunately, Mama Joe slips into a diabeticcoma and the 40-year tradition comes to an end. Without the attentionsof Mama Joe, the family slowly begins to come apart. Lem cannotfind a job, and eventually becomes enraged with his wife Birdwhen he finds out how she got him a job. Terri, furious with Lembecause she thinks he attacked Bird, has a goon beat him up. Lemeventually winds up in jail. Terri’s husband Miles has an affairwith her cousin Faith. This leads to a rather funny scene in whichTerri first chases her husband with a butcher knife and then Faithwhile they are all at a party. Mama Joe dies and Terri decidesto sell Mama Joe’s house against the wishes of her family. Inorder to reunite the family Ahmed lures the family back to MamaJoe’s for a Sunday dinner.

Commentary: There are enough shots of food for this filmto be considered a food movie. A substantial amount of the plotis also devoted to the food. The best scenes are early in themovie at Bird and Lem’s wedding. Later when Mama Joe has diedand the family is reunited for a Sunday dinner the preparationof the meal will likely spark an appetite, especially the friedcatfish. However, macaroni and cheese just does not compare totimpani, nor is the presentation nearly as elaborate as filmslike Babette’s Feast or Eat Drink Man Woman. Thefood is certainly more realistic of what a real family eats; but,realistic or not it is far less impressive.

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