I honestly can’t think of a more appropriate title for a movie than This Is Not What I Expected. It’s a Chinese film that showed up at my local theater recently and I went into it not really knowing what to expect at all. I had only seen a trailer for it but still wasn’t sure exactly what type of film it was going to be. So by the time it ended, it wasn’t what I expected, but that was a good thing.
It turns out this film is a Chinese romantic comedy that involves food. And oh my lord, the food! It’s a film I would place high up on a list of good food movies (for me that would include films like Ratatouille or Big Night) because the food is a character in itself here. The film opens with an image of a steak sizzling that would make your mouth water. Oh, and yes there’s a You Got Mail type plot if you’re paying attention, that is, if you aren’t distracted by the food scenes.
We first meet Gu Sheng-Nan on top of an expensive vehicle etching the hood with the word “cheater” to help out her roommate whose boyfriend has cheated. Unfortunately, while Gu has the right make and model of the vehicle she’s destroying, this particular car doesn’t belong to said cheating boyfriend. Instead, it belongs to billionaire CEO Lu Jin, who threatens to have her arrested if she doesn’t get the car’s hood restored immediately. Gu and Lu are not off to great start at all. Lu then proceeds to check into a room at a nearby hotel that he’s thinking about buying. While he’s considering the purchase, he demands the kitchen to fix all the dishes on the hotel restaurant’s menu to help influence his decision. He samples each dish, yet none of them satisfy his tastes until the general manager sends up, in a last ditch effort, one more dish created by one of his chefs that’s not on the menu. This dish changes everything, and Lu decides to reside in the hotel a bit longer and demands this chef prepare all his meals while he’s there. Little does he know that it’s actually Gu who’s creating the dishes down in the kitchen, and she has no idea that she’s preparing these dishes for Lu. Hilarity ensues!
That’s the basis for the film, where Gu and Lu can’t stand to be in each other’s presence, but Lu appreciates Gu’s talents with the food he’s so passionate about and Gu finds herself falling for someone who drives her crazy. Lu is such a foodie that he even has a specific way of cooking packaged ramen noodles in order to extract its full potential, and it’s hilarious to watch his scientific process. I loved watching Gu smell her ingredients and then process what dish she’s going to prepare. And, of course, romance blooms. I laughed throughout the whole film. It’s genuinely funny and lighthearted; this isn’t compelling foreign cinema here, rather it’s silly and enjoyable. Personally, romantic comedies are not my favorite type of movie, but it was fun to watch a film like this from a different country and culture and yet it felt new and fresh to me. I’m already wondering when the blu ray comes out…