Customer Reviews: Eat Drink Man Woman
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on May 20, 2000
Being an American of non-asian descent, I know little to nothing about the culture of the Far East. All I have ever seen of Japan and China has been through the eyes of Bruce Lee, Jet Li and Akira Kurosawa films. So when I have the opportunity to watch a movie that is not only well made but gives me the opportunity to learn more about such a far away and different culture, I jump at it. This was such a film.
Let me first applaud the acting, especially by Mr. Lung (Mr. Chu) and Ms. Wu (Jia-Chien). They were not only convincing, but seductive in their roles. The story was realistic and, contrary to reviews by Leonard Maltin, was unpredictable. Who could have guessed the way the story would unwind, to the final Sunday dinner.
What I found most engaging about the film was the character Jia-Chien. Her relationship with her family was complex. Lack of communication with her older sister led their love to become buried in angst and confusion. And although she set out to become a successful business woman, she struggled to find balance between her work and her love of cooking and her father. It became apparent to me that she was her fathers favorite daughter, and their apprehension toward showing their feelings was clouded by their lives outside the family, until they came to accept each other.
The only other film about Chinese culture (not martial arts) that I have seen is Joy Luck Club, and although this did not feature the same level of drama and pain, I enjoyed it just as much. See this movie.
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on March 13, 2002
This film is set in Taipei, and is spoken in Mandarin. The opening scene of this movie shows Master Chef Chu at work in his own kitchen at home in preparation for "the Sunday dinner." (My mouth was watering after the first 5 minutes.) It's a ritual in the Chu family for the [widowed] father to get together with his three daughters for this weekly meal no matter how tight the schedules of or how unwilling the daughters are to come. The eldest daughter is a devout Christian and high school chemistry teacher. The second daughter is an airline executive and the youngest daughter is a fast food chain cashier.
All three daughters aren't married and aren't in any serious relationships at the beginning of the story. But as the movie progresses and each of them find love under the strangest of circumstances, each has an "announcement" to make around the dinner table come Sunday. The audience can't help but feel bad for the father who's getting old and seems to be at odds with her daughters for every small matter.
Each daughter's relationship reflects the uniqueness of individuals.
The important theme to this story is hinted at when the father repeats to his daughters that he has lost his taste a long time ago. The audience later knows that he was referring more to his taste for life rather than his physical inability to distinguish flavors. This lack of appreciation for life comes with age as well as his loneliness from accepting the inevitable -- that his daughters are going to leave him alone someday.
There are so many subtleties this film is able to capture about not only the Chinese culture but living with women in general. (I grew up in a household where I was the only male, and I know what the father must have gone through each day.)
I highly, highly recommend this film. As an added incentive, I intentionally left out the surprise ending hinted at on the back cover, as well as other minor details. Feast your eyes and mouth on this exquisite film!
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I simply adored this movie. The characters are so very real. You see them warts and all... their idiosynchrocies, quirks, talents, loves, etc. are all exposed to the point you love every character.
I saw this in the theater with English subtitles, then saw it on video... the video wasn't labeled as to how it was placed on the tape... and sadly, in lieu of English subtitles, they dubbed in voices... a very bad move. The only Chinese I understand is what I order when I go out to eat... but even if you don't speak Chinese, you get so much from hearing the real actors' voices. They are quite expressive. I am learning disabled and read very slowly, but I was able to follow the dialog without difficulty with the subtitles and still tell what was going on.
The talents displayed by the master chef & father in the film opens up your mind to another culture rich in history and talents. You really feel like you're a part of this family while watching the film and are emotionally attached to everyone in it.
A high quality, relationship-rich film coverning 3 generations of life & love. Not a sappy "girl movie" but an experience.
If anyone knows how/when/where to get this film on DVD, please let me know. I've been looking everywhere for it. It's probably available in China, but I'd have to have a copy w/ English subtitles.
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on October 11, 2004
I would like to clarify that "Eat Drink Man Woman"(1994) is not a remake of "Tortilla Soup"(2001). It's actually the other way around.

I LOVE this movie. It's amazing because it touched me with it's honesty. This is one of my favorite kinds of movie where the director does not underestimate the audience and takes the time to tell his story with subtlety, reactions/expressions and wit. All the actors/actresses were outstanding especially Chef Wu and his middle daughter. This is a great way to take a peek into the modern Chinese family where the old generation traditions are clashing with the modern westernized ways. The direction was graceful and showed unexpected aspects of this conflict. The characters were multi-layered and totaly real.

I did not find this film slow moving or boring at all as one reviewer said. The editing was great and the cinematography was stylish. I actually want to watch this movie again which is rare for me. I can't say enough good things about this movie. Watch this if you were ever a child who clashed with your parents.

Highly Recommended.
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on June 14, 2004
Apart from a fabulous peep into the Chinese culinary worlds and its delectable blend of touching yet hilarious screenplay (a natural, unfolding rhythm), this movie for me represents Ang Lee's peak.
A bit like a Chinese version of Woody Allen's "Hannah and her sisters", the film traverses through the lives of three sisters and their father. Lee manages to tell each character's story with care and humor. There are some hearty laughs, a number of touching dramatic moments, and towards the end even a couple of startling twists.
There are a handful of movies that employ cooking as a metaphor of life. But Lee doesn't stop there -- he uses the *preparation* of food as a motif of life's experience as a whole, to include friendship and familial devotion, as well as desire, passion and love. On occasion, food also represents a substitute to all that.
Ultimately, what makes a movie like this work is how much you care for its characters, each one wholesomely well-drawn and glibly multi-dimensional. With the possible exception of a family friend, who comes across as a bit cartooney, there are no caricature villains. Everyone is complex and human.
A terrific offering from China that I highly recommend. You may leave with a craving for some noodles soon after..
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on January 24, 2006
Eat Drink Man Woman is the type of film you watch on a relaxed or rainy day. Seeing the film in it's original language creates more drama and sympathy for the father who is a chef and no longer has his sense of taste and his three daughters that suffer from a boring routine schedule of a full plate of work and even more plates of food. One daughter is a student the other a teacher and the eldest is a hard working executive.

Raising three daughters is hard for a widower and being raised by a widower is even harder. The story is set when everyone starts getting a life and they're all worried about how the change is going to effect the family but the one who you would expect to care most doesn't. Dad takes the change ok because of the recent lost of his best friend who worked as his taste buds when he lost his own.

Things start to get more complicated as both daughters fall in love with co-workers and the youngest falls for her best friends boyfriend. Through all of these complications they still make it home for a big dinner not prepared to the fullest thanks to their father not being able to tell if the taste is right. The biggest surprise and twist is their father has been keeping a huge secret from his family and another family. Eat Drink Man Woman is a film of love, lust, and eventually happiness and it shows you not to be afraid of change and living without your parent's babying you. A film full of comedy and joy plus a dash of jaw dropping twist it is sure to make a comfortable day even more relaxed.
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on January 3, 2015
Probably the most enduring Ang Lee film. As fresh today as when originally released. Have watched it so many times that one would think the film would become rote to the viewer, however, it surprises with different little twists and turns that were missed the first 11 or 12 times I have watched it.
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on March 23, 2015
This is probably the best Food Film I've seen, but this is not a review of it.

The Olive BR release comes with yellow hardcoded English subtitles and Mandarin audio (though the Amazon info states Cantonese... phew), no extras. Audio transfer seemed pretty good, and video quality is as good as you'll ever get... though I did see some scratches. Overall, unless Criterion decides to release this one (with a lengthy feature on the food and commentary track with Ang Lee xD), this will be the best you're gonna get. At nearly $20, it seems a bit expensive for a bare release, though.
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on August 20, 2006
I'm originally from Taiwan, and I can say that this film captures genuinly the father-child and teacher-student relationship over there. There might be even times viewers from the Western countries wonder why they act this way. But that's the cultural difference.

The intensity and pace of the film is regulated perfectly. The story is unconventional, so it's not your average film, whose story can be explained in a few lines. So whether you're interested in the culture, or you just want a good drama about family values, working relationships, or expectations from family members on eather other, this is a good film to watch. One of Ang Lee's best film.
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VINE VOICEon March 15, 2008
This film is a feast for the eyes and senses. It will have almost *all* viewers drooling with delight and desire as Mr. Chen prepares his ritual Sunday meal for his three grown daughters and occasionally a friend and neighbor. Mr. Chen is a widower, a retired chef from a famous Chinese restaurant in Taiwan. He continues this traditional family gathering as a way of communicating his love for his daughters. As a Chinese male and head of household, it is awkward for him to express his true feelings without a mother figure in the house. The problem is - his daughters are adults and each has her own unique identity. Each of them needs to grow in her own directon and express her own individuality - this is when the fun really begins, as one by one in the film, the viewer is privileged to learn about the daughters' lives. Little does Mr. Chen realize just how modern his obedient daughters are and just exactly what events are transpiring behind the scenes in their lives to which he is *not* privvy ... until by one their lives are revealed to his surprise. However, what is really amazing is - Mr. Chen is more modern than his *own* daughters realize and he has a few tricks up his sleeve which catch them unaware as well!

There are many wonderful themes explored in this complex film which to be fully appreciated should be viewed several times for maximum enjoyment. There is love, hope, survival, lonliness, friendship, death, betrayal, family values, and so much more. There is so much depth to this film that a lot can and likely will be missed, despite the fact it is a two hour film, it zooms by very fast. Mr. Chen's role is much deeper than one realizes, so the unfocused mind is overwhelmed by sensual data. Truly, several viewings will be needed and this is realized *only* after having viewed the film two or three times. The middle and most beautiful daughter is a company executive for an airline. She is highly successful and offered a promotion to become a Vice President for the firm but it involves moving to the Amsterdam office. She is a modern career woman and carrying on an affair with a free-spirited Chinese artist. Little does she know what tricks her boyfriend has in store for her while she plays the role of single successful woman. Her life seems the most on track and the film reveals just how much of an illusion this viewpoint is. The eldest daughter is more plain looking. She graduated with a college major in chemistry and teaches at a local boy's high school. She uses religion as an escape and became a Christian. She listens to Christian hymns even when waiting for the bus and traveling to and from work. Her "old maid" status is not lost on her teenaged male students who play a practical joke on her which went overboard and caused her great embarrassment. Amazingly enough, the new boy's volleyball coach greets the chemistry teacher and asks her to attend the team's games. He rides a motor cycle and is very cool. She does not know what to make of his overtures. It is when the students in her chemistry class play the practical joke on her that Chou Ming Dao, the coach comes to her rescue and a different kind of *chemistry* occurs between them. Something magical and unexpected develops. The oldest plain daughter engages in uncharacteristic behaviors but due to her Christian beliefs, she follows her heart as well as the tenets of her faith but the outcome is totally unpredictable. She shocks her family with her announcement at the Sunday traditional family meal ... The third daughter is the youngest. She works at fast food restaurant and unlike her older sisters shows no promise to become college educated. She has a best friend whose boyfriend keeps hanging around the restaurant. The friend indicates she is making her boyfriend suffer and she feigns not being interested in him, very convincingly so. The youngest daughter advises the young man on love and matters of the heart, to the point of his realizing *she* is a better catch than his original love. There are many unpredictable twists and turns in the plot as each daughter works out her life circumstances based on her own interests and values ...

Meanwhile they are hoping that their dad will get together with Jin Rong's mother who returned to Taiwan after living in the USA. Jin Rong is a pretty young neighbor who is undergoing a divorce from her husband who cheated by having an affair. Her mother is returned to live with her and help raise Shan Shan her school aged daughter. Her mother could not get used to the culture shock of her other daughter having married outside the Chinese culture. It is quite clear, Jin Rong's mother has designs on Mr. Chen. Mr. Chen's daughters are encouraging these feelings. Mr. Chen pulls off one of the biggest unexpected and unpredictable surprise endings which truly makes this film one of the best I have viewed in a long time. This is a most highly recommended film. Erika Borsos [pepper flower]
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