Food of Love

on October 25, 2002 by Luisa F. Ribeiro
Purportedly a coming-of-age story set in the tough world of classical music, "Food of Love" is only middling in its portrayal of a young man discovering that he is gay and flat-out disappointing in its depiction of classical musicians.

Newcomer Kevin Bishop is Paul Portfield, a dedicated piano student who, before heading to Julliard in the fall, accepts the opportunity to turn pages for his idol, famous concert pianist Richard Kennington (Paul Rhys), during a performance. The fleeting chance opens up a far different world than Paul could ever have imagined when, while traveling in Spain with his neurotic mother Pamela ("Truly, Madly, Deeply's" Juliet Stevenson), he meets Richard again. Disappointed to have missed Richard's performance, Paul boldly calls on Richard at his hotel, only to end up being seduced by the charming but demanding musician.

Panicked by Paul's youthful emotional stranglehold after a week's fling, Richard flees back to his longtime lover and agent, Joseph Mansourian ("Topsy-Turvy's" Allan Corduner), leaving Paul to recover as best he can. Meanwhile, Pamela, who's struggling through an unhappy divorce, frets about Paul's increasingly inexplicable behavior and finally challenges her son on the direction of his life.

Based on the short novel by David Leavitt, "Food of Love" (taken from Shakespeare's nod to the seductive nature of music in "Twelfth Night": "If music be the food of love, play on") has all the elements for a pleasant romance, but is hindered by a weak script from Spanish writer-director Ventura Pons and a wooden performance by Bishop. Despite a pleasingly boyish face, melting blue eyes and an agreeable physique, Bishop registers no emotion in scenes that demand a wide range, from fresh naiveté to fear to romance, disillusion, uncertainty and fury. With Bishop's limitations, Pons' script, unwilling to more fully take advantage of the vital and emotional musical world in which it is set, is revealed as shallow and uneven. The thin suggestion that Paul has willingly surrendered his dedication to music in exchange for being taken up by older men is startling but never developed.

Rhys fares the best as the self-absorbed but emotionally fragile pianist who, fearing he has reached his professional peak, seeks solace in the arms of an unabashed young admirer. Corduner is appropriately smarmy but only partially convincing as the jealous older lover who shows his humanity by the depth of emotion he feels upon the death of a beloved pet dog. Despite Juliet Stevenon's attempt to bring cohesion to Pamela's emotional roller coaster life, it is not enough to give the film the substance it so desperately needs. Starring Juliet Stevenson, Kevin Bishop and Paul Rhys. Directed and written by Ventura Pons. Produced by Michael Smeaton and Thomas Spieker. A TLA release. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 109 min

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