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Storyline (warning: spoilers)
Carmine (Salvatore Esposito) reluctantly runs a restaurant in Rome, after having been forced there post a major stuff up by his godfather and mafioso Pasquale (Gianfrance Gallo). While ostensibly his job is to sit down, shut up and launder money as fast as possible, in reality Carmine can’t resist the allure of turning this restaurant into a going concern. He also can’t resist the charms of Consuelo (Greta Scarano), a down on her luck chef who he teams up with to turn this restaurant into a Michelin star aspiring restaurant. To do so, however, he dips into the money he is meant to be laundering, and as they face together the challenges of creating a successful restaurant, they also face the looming threat of the mafioso they took the cash from.
The Perfect Dinner isn’t breaking any new ground. Indeed, the style of filmmaking feels like it harkens back to a time before big budget CGI, endless camera stabilisation, and that certain streaming service feel of content. There are rough shots, and the whole thing feels like it was all shot on location without an ounce of green screen. There’s something to love about that.
There’s also something to love about the beautiful work by the two lead actors. Esposito is lovely and engaging, a truly endearing sort of hero to get behind. Scarano is feisty and fiery as the wronged chef, but also convincing in her relationship with Esposito. Together, they form a formidable pair that sparks real joy. The other standout is Gianluca Colucci’s Rosario, who plays the comic relief extremely well.
As a story, there’s nothing really unexpected to be seen here. However, that doesn’t mean it fails in any respect. The paths are well trodden, but they still are both enjoyable and effective in delivering the emotional punches needed. At the end of the day, the film focusses on how memory and familiarity in food drives enjoyment and feeling, and the movie itself trades on that same sentiment very effectively to deliver a great time in the theatre. The Perfect Dinner isn’t perfect, but it’s a damn good meal.