Given that "Tasting Menu" is set at a foodie mecca on Spain's Costa Brava, it would be reasonable to expect healthy portions of food porn along with the romantic comedy. But director Roger Gual presents little in the way of tantalizing culinary visuals, and that leaves the paper-thin characters as the main course.
Even with such fine actors as Fionnula Flanagan and Stephen Rea in the ensemble, the Spanish-Irish co-production is a flavorless affair that has all the bite of a dining room-bound episode of "The Love Boat."
The screenplay by Gual and Javier Calvo moves among an international assortment of high rollers and connoisseurs on the closing night of a cutting-edge eatery. It's nice to see a female chef (Vicenta N'Dongo) at the helm, but she turns out to be peripheral to the soap opera of missed messages and mistaken identities.
It revolves around a married couple (Jan Cornet and Claudia Bassols), together again after months of separation. Over plates of snail caviar and other delicacies, they belabor their relationship woes, while a server offers a strong dose of symbolism, noting that the emulsions in one dish work only when together.
The cast, including Flanagan as a straight-shooting widow, is at a loss to make the intended heartache and hilarity believable or engaging. With the good fortune of few lines, Togo Igawa, playing a Tokyo businessman, fares better than most. A strenuously manufactured burning question over the identity of Rea's hangdog diner is resolved in a way that makes little sense, but it suggests a more interesting character study than what this "Menu" serves up.
MPAA rating: PG-13 for brief language; in English, Catalan and Spanish with English subtitles.
Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes.
Playing: At Laemmle's Music Hall, Beverly Hills; Laemmle's Town Center 5, Encino; Regency South Coast Village, Santa Ana