The Tasting

Original title or aka: La Degustation

Director: Ivan Calbérac
Starring: Isabelle Carré, Bernard Campan and Eric Viellard
Distributor: StudioCanal
Runtime: 92 mins. Reviewed in Nov 2023
Reviewer: Peter W Sheehan
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Mature themes, sex scenes and coarse language

This subtitled French romantic comedy focuses on two lonely people who escape from the problems they have experienced in the past to find romance with each other.

A middle-aged midwife, Hortense (Carré), who also cooks for the homeless, meets Jacques (Campan), who runs a bottle-store in France. A fine-wine connoisseur, Jacques doesn’t drink a lot of alcohol any longer because of health reasons. Jacques and Hortense are lonely people looking for human connection, and they grow to share in each other’s lives.

The film is an endearing romantic comedy, which freely mixes good humour with love and sadness, and more than a modicum of tenderness. Jacques runs wine-tasting sessions to foster people’s appreciation of fine wine, and he finds himself attracted to Hortense, who has little idea about what makes a glass of wine a good one. She urgently needs to learn from one of Jacque’s wine-tasting sessions.

French comedy has gained a much-deserved reputation for extracting good humour from situational absurdity. This film has its fair share of employing that strategy. Hortense can’t articulate what makes a fine Bordeaux red wine better than a lot of other red wines, and she is a person who gets tipsy on any bottle of wine she is given. But, somehow, she knows when a wine is good – being Catholic, she whispers to the priest while he is in the middle of celebrating Mass in her church, that she considers that he is using a very good communion wine.

This is a contrived tale, but the appeal and acting of its two main leads carries the movie smartly along, and viewers will learn a lot about quality wines en route. The film is filled with double entendres that are delivered briskly, and it has witty scripting and a good musical soundtrack. There are other suitors around who are attracted to Hortense. Jacques’ friend, Guillaume (Viellard), for example, is also interested in Hortense.

Overall, this is a light, amiable movie that is easy to enjoy. Hortense reveals a secret from her past life that brings her and Jacques closer together, but tragedy in Jacques’ past causes him to pull away when Hortense pressures him for more commitment. As the movie winds to an expected happy ending, it uses events from Hortense’s and Jacques’ pasts to bring the film to a satisfying romantic conclusion.

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