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What's Cooking What's Cooking

A fairly savory ode to the City of Angels which is set just before Turkey Day, What's Cooking has an alluring aroma of Thanksgiving preparations as it depicts the changes within the dynamics of four families: Black, Latino, Jewish, and Asian.  The London schooled, Kenya native of Indian descent, Gurinder Chadha directs with a warm feeling for an impressive ensemble, without much stereotyping.  Similar to Magnolia and Short Cuts, LA is the city where selfish, differing types are oddly united.

Working with her proficient photographer Jong Lin (Eat Drink Man Woman), Chadha snappily looks at the characters who are a part of the hustle and bustle of LA, before the camera settles into the dining parlors and kitchens of a quartet of households where tensions are about to rise.

The Williams' appear to be an ideal black family unit with hubby Ronald (Dennis Haysbert) an assistant to the Republican governor and his likable wife Audrey (Alfre Woodard) at the airport to get his mother in order to begin work on a feast for their many WASP attendees.  Their cooking styles underline a thematic turmoil between generations unaffected by race or ethnicity as What's Cooking broadly interacts varying Thanksgiving rites with an over populated cast.

Also appearing over the course of coming home for a family holiday is optimistic Latino Anthony (Douglas Spain) looking to reunite a dallying dad (Victor Rivers) with his equally adulterous teacher mom, Elizabeth (Mercedes Ruehl).  The Jewish clan is abuzz as daughter Rachel (Kyra Sedgwick) has a new lover in Carla (Julianna Margulies - ER) and her sexual proclivity piques the curiosity of the inquiring Aunt Bea (Estelle Harris).  Joan Chen's americanized Vietnamese mother is facing the fact that her daughter Jenny (Kristy Wu) is sexually active, eldest son Jimmy (Will Yun Lee) isn't studying at the university and the middle son Gary (Jimmy Pham) has put a gun under his bed.

With so many people stirring about where the notion of family is valued, it's hard to get depth in the various kin, but Woodard and Ruehl manifest their veteran, maternal qualities within their strife.  Chadha, who collaborated on the script with the LA husband raised in Japan, Paul Mayeda Berges, uses the gun to link their colorful, short episodes as the Nguyen family isn't as well developed as the others.  Through it simmers without much conflict, What's Cooking is a somewhat overstuffed melting pot, yet it's an often heartfelt recipe in contemporary family life, with the performances adding to the intrinsic ingredients.

 
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