I don’t typically eat before a movie. Instead, preferring to enhance my viewing experiance with salty, buttery popcorn and a fountain drink of choice while watching. The new normal in my area of the world when watching films, currently only allows drinks, no food, so I had to abandon this idea. I didn’t realize how much that decision would affect my viewing of Food Luck!.
Food Luck! the story of two very different writers at a restaurant review magazine. Takenaka Shizuku (Tsuchiya Tao) is a new writer who references apps and online review in order to find the hottest places. Sato Yoshito (Naoto) is a freelancer, who grew up with a mother who ran a yakiniku restaurant. The duo are brought together by their eccentric editor Shinsei Eiji (Ishiguro Ken), the duo have been assigned to find the the best of yakiniku restaurant. Which for Yoshito, opens up his past, and his relationship to his estranged mother.
This story is not one where we get a definitive answer about the best yakiniku restaurant in Japan. In fact, Food Luck! really isn’t about that at all, but tells a deeper story of what goes into making good yakiniku. As the search continues, we learn all about the aspects of what makes a good restaurant. You can be as instagrammable as they come, but if your meat selection is poor there won’t be repeat customers. A restaurant with a long wait time might be some indicator of repeat customers, and might have some nice reviews. That doesn’t mean the neighboring option with less online presence and a shorter wait time isn’t also a delicious and unique opportunity.
What Food Luck! is really about, is how important a reputation is for restaurants. Back when Yoshito was a child, it’s implied that the internet wasn’t much of a thing and written reviews in magazines and other articles held much more weight. While word of mouth from nearby residents might have gotten a restaurant a break, one bad review intentionally malicious or genuinely truthful, can break a business. Something that in the age of the internet where anyone can masquerade as a qualified source, makes starting and maintaining a reputation incredibly difficult.
Additionally, Food Luck! is a representation that most reputable industry insiders are more collaborative then you would think. The real pros all know each other, and know what tips and tricks each uses that makes their menu, and dining experiance excellant. Those same pros aren’t ignorant to the reviewers who take bribes to give a competitor an edge, or alleged customers that seem to take an extended interest in secret sauces and techniques.
All of this, relates back to that small mention I made in the description of Yoshito’s mother being the owner and cook of a yakiniku restaurant when he was a child. The way all the characters relate back to Yoshito’s mother, her restaurant and what happened to it was brilliant. It’s a story that I truly wasn’t anticipating to be as touching as it was, and what was displayed. I was genuinely surprised that this was both written and directed by the first timer, Terakado Jimon. The presentation of each shot, especially showing preparation and intention when cooking was stunning. I sincerely hope that Terakado Jimon continues to write and direct because this was a fresh take on a well-established genre.
There are a handful of details that might be considered detriments by viewers. Fans of Tsuchiya Tao, are probably going to be disappointed with her character in this one. Shizuku’s more of a main support for this story, then an actual main character. She doesn’t have much substance as a character, we get no insight to her motivations or ideas on anything beyond one or two critical moments. Shizuku’s main purpose is to naturally guide conversations to the details of what makes good yakiniku, verses having any opinions herself aside from, “This is so good!”. While Tao did a great job as Shizuku, this is not one of her stronger roles.
Additionally, the extensive detailing of the ethics of yakiniku can be over bearing. This was broken up with on screen text of Yoshito’s and Furuyama Tatsuya (Matsuo Satoru)’s longer expositions. I think these info dumps were suppose to be informatively funny. The use of on screen text highlighting each character’s position was incorporated in a way to break up those scenes. I found it as a positive as it allowed me to follow the dialogue more closely, but totally could see where it would come off more as overwhelming. I give it style points for having something going on while we’re being lectured, instead of it being a held shot of the lecturer just speaking.
Food Luck! is one of those films were the premise is a bit deceiving, and has a lot more soul to it then you would think. It has striking locations, gorgeous and mouth watering food shots galore, as well as an amazing cast
(Yes, Naoto was amazing) of seasoned actors that really demonstrate what it means to be the best at what you do. Again, don’t watch it on an empty stomach, but if you’ve never had yakiniku I guarantee this film will get you craving it. With that, I’ll see you next post!