“I would sometimes wonder what it would be like if I just turned up at my friends’ house, where I used to have dinner once a week, with the most famous person at that time, be it Madonna or whomever. It all sprang from there. How would my friends react? Who would try and be cool? How would you get through dinner? What would they say to you afterwards?” Richard Curtis
I think one of my favorite foodie movie moments is the dinner scene from the movie Notting Hill, starring Hugh Grant and Julie Roberts. It’s also one of my favorite movies. The supporting cast of off-beat characters in this movie is an inspiration. And who won’t want to write a scene like the one in which the dinner guest with the biggest sob story wins the last brownie?
Anna Scott: Really. And, one day not long from now, my looks will go, they will discover I can’t act and I will become some sad middle-aged woman who looks a bit like someone who was famous for a while.
Max: [long pause] Nah, nice try gorgeous, but you don’t fool anyone.
William: Pathetic effort to hog the brownie.
This is the tail end of the scene. But earlier as each person around the table does their best to win the brownie we are charmed, as is Anna Scott, by the honesty and the genuine caring and concern these people have for each other. We learn a lot about each individual character during this scene as they try and cope with the inclusion of a famous person in their midst. They are all vulnerable in some way, even the one whose life seems charmed.
It’s a scene of contrasts. Anna Scott’s lifestyle compared to theirs. No room service, little sophistication. No celebrity. They fumble about trying to act normal and make a mess of it. But all the while we know she’s there by choice as she’s drawn to William and we can sense she’s envious of their close camaraderie. They draw her in by not being able to hide how ‘normal’ they are. All this over poorly cooked guinea fowl and a plate of brownies.
Contrast is a way to showcase a variety of differences. To emphasize opposites. Red and green are contrasting colors. Anna Scott and William Thacker are contrasting characters, made more memorable because of that contrast. Think Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Bella and Edward. Eve and Roarke. Cats and dogs.
From a writing perspective, if you can take an ordinary event like eating and turn it into a scene stealer like the Notting Hill dinner party scene was for me, it’s a good thing.
What’s your favorite foodie film moment?