“The Food Club,” a comedy featuring seniors, is screening virtually at the M.V. Film Society this week. Directed by Barbara Topsøle-Rothenborg, it describes the misadventures of three Danish women of a certain age at a cooking school in Puglia, Italy. Much like “Under the Tuscan Sun” or “Made in Italy,” it takes the viewers to scenically beautiful Italy, this time with Maria (Karoline Hamm), Berling (Stina Ekblad), and Vanja (Kirsten Lebfelot). All three are well-known Danish actresses.
The three friends, all pushing 70, have gathered after Maria discovers her husband Henrik is having an affair with a younger woman and after 44 years of marriage, is ready to dump her. Maria’s sons have given their parents a Christmas gift certificate to attend an Italian cooking school, and with Henrik no longer in the picture, the three friends decide to take advantage of it. Each of the three has a different challenge. Maria is devastated by her husband’s infidelity; Berling, serving sushi for Christmas dinner, ignores her daughter and family for a life of independence; Vanja, still mourning her deceased husband, is devoted to her dog Miller.
The format of “The Food Club” is structured around each day’s cooking lesson. After their vintage Italian convertible breaks down in Puglia, they push it to the agriturismo (inn) run by Alessandro (Michele Venitucci) and settle in. The cooking classes begin with the three women introducing themselves to Jacob (Troels Lyby), a landscape gardener. Berling is of an undetermined profession, Vanja is a retired Danish and history teacher, and Maria is an accountant in the firm she, unfortunately, shares with her husband.
Not ready to give up on her estranged husband, Maria sends him texts and emails him messages that he doesn’t return. To keep the scene’s humor contemporary and not relegated to elderly stereotypes, Berling is shown smoking pot, and Maria discovers a dildo among Berling’s clothes.
Sunday is the first day of cooking lessons, but a heartbroken Maria isn’t interested. She brings work with her rather than participating in the latest cooking lesson. Berling’s daughter tells her mother she won’t spend Christmas with her anymore. It becomes clear that Jacob is smitten with Vanja, but she avoids responding to his advances.
On Monday the cooking class visits an olive grove. When the three friends head into town for some shopping, a thief grabs Maria’s purse, but the chase ends successfully. Back at the inn, the electricity goes out temporarily, and so it goes. When Maria receives a Happy New Year call from her sons, she glimpses Henrik with his new paramour, Jette, in the background. Later at a New Year’s Eve party, Alessandro encourages Maria to smash plates as part of a “new beginning.” She guzzles wine, then staggers off to her room and sends Henrik’s girlfriend a nasty email. At Thursday’s food preparation of brasato, a braised beef dish, Maria gives up and dumps it into the trash. After Vanja and Jacob crush grapes with their feet, Vanja still rejects Jacob’s advances.
In this way, “The Food Club” interweaves the problems of each of the three friends. “Growing old sucks,” they decide, but at least they can be old “arses” together.
While “The Food Club” verges on clichés, the three women remain vibrant and entertaining, hardly just old ladies.
Information and tickets for the virtual screening of “The Food Club” are available at mvfilmsociety.com.