Simply Irresistible (1999)
Directed by Mark Tarlov
Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Sean Patrick Flanery, Patricia Clarkson, Christopher Durang, Larry Gilliard Jr., Dylan Baker, Betty Buckley.
1999 95 minutes
Rated: (for profanity).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, February 6, 1999.
Blatantly borrowing elements from 1993's "Like Water for Chocolate" and 1991's "The Butcher's Wife," "Simply Irresistible" attempts to be a whimsical romantic comedy but, more often than not, comes off as laughable, leaving you to wonder why rising star Sarah Michelle Gellar (T.V.'s "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer") would choose such an obviously inept film project to waste her time on.
Things get off to a bad start right from the onset as Amanda (Sarah Michelle Gellar), a young woman who runs her late family's struggling New York restaurant, runs into a mystery man who forces a bushel of crabs on her and then vansihes into thin air. While out shopping, she also meets Tom (Sean Patrick Flanery), a charming, handsome man, who happens to be planning a ritzy restaurant for the department store he works for, and later when he decides to drop by her dive, called Southern Cross, for lunch, she somehow makes a delicious crab dish for him, even though she is known to not be a very good chef. Suddenly, Amanda finds her restaurant, on the edge of foreclosure, rejuvenate to life as customer begin to swarm for her food, which strangely causes everyone immediate jubilation when it hits their mouths. Are Amanda and Tom destined to be together? And is it not just because of the magical food, but because they really, truly like each other? And what exactly is going on with the food she is making? Does it have anything to do with that pesky crab she got that sits on the shelf in the kitchen somehow assisting her in her food preparation?
"Simply Irresistible" is a ridiculous and just plain goofy romantic fantasy that's as flimsy as a slice of bologna. It takes one joke---that people who eat the food are taken aback by it in most unusual ways---and recycles it over and over again until the film has reached an appropriate running time of 95 minutes. Add in a music montage every ten minutes (these are actually the best scenes in the movie, which certainly tells you something about the film itself), and what you've got is an utterly empty, if not necessarily boring, excursion.
The cast of "Simply Irresistible" is fairly good, but it is the supporting characters who are the most interesting. Patricia Clarkson (1998's "High Art," in which she played a drugged-out lesbian) is a standout as Tom's colleague, and is thankfully given a few funny lines of dialogue. Also of note is Larry Gilliard Jr., as Amanda's cooking assistant and buddy, who is allowed to create a seemingly full character out of only a handful of scenes. Of the main stars, Sarah Michelle Gellar is fine, but really does often look like she's struggling through the unmistakably clumsy material, and if Sean Patrick Flanery plans on keeping a film career in the future, he has certainly got to pick better projects than this.
The bottom line is that "Simply Irresistible" is the exact opposite of its deprophesized title, and when the movie got to the point where the characters began to float in mid-air (an unamusing plot device that was repeated in the stupid last scene), my mind checked out from the characters and the romance. When I think about it in hindsight, I should have checked out in the very first scene, where the point of the action was for Gellar to crawl under tables looking for a runaway mechanical crab. Now, that certainly is what I'd call magical!
©1999 by Dustin Putman