LGBT Movies: Food of Love (2002)

A spoiled teen musician (charmless Kevin Bishop) visits Barcelona with his mother (delightful Juliet Stevenson) and has a fling with an older man (relaxed Paul Rhys). When the boy returns to New York he loses his way. I’d hoped for a swoon worthy romance in the vein of Call Me By Your Name. There’s a scene with an ice cube that reminded me of a certain peach. Sadly, Food of Love is tawdry and pedestrian. It reveals how awful Call Me could have been with the wrong actor in the lead. Screaming matches, a stolen photograph and a predatory villain help the plot spin its wheels for a dull second half.

When the film devolved into camp I decided to write a spoiler filled recap.

Act One: The Page Turner

FOL Interupted
Paul Rhys’s artist and Kevin Bishop’s teen are caught flirting backstage.

Scene One: New York Concert Hall
MOM: Oh my goodness son look how handsome you are in your suit. It’s such an honor that you get to be the page turner for a classical pianist.
MOM: You sound strange dear.
TEEN: I’m British and trying an American accent. It’s hawd… harrrd… It’s difficult.
ARTIST: You turned those pages very well.
TEEN: Gee thanks. But I want to play piano like you.
MANAGER: I could help with that. I’m the artist’s manager. So… sex?
TEEN: Nope.

Act Two: Where Ya Going? Barcelona.

FOL Rescue
The artist rescues the teen’s mother (Juliet Stevenson). No one is making eye contact.

Scene Two: Barcelona. Six Months Later.
MOM: Oh my goodness Barcelona is delightful! Just what I needed after my divorce from your father. All of these interesting people. A shame we don’t let any of them speak.
(Thieves steal Mom’s purse. Artist gets it back.)
ARTIST: What a surprise. Shall I take you to lunch?
MOM & TEEN: Oh… why… yes… My…goodness.

Scene Three: Hotel Room
TEEN: I just happened to call every hotel in the phone book and stumble onto yours. You see I really just wanted to… umm… well… I…
ARTIST: Let’s skip to the sex.
(Artist runs an ice cube down the Teens’ back.)
TEEN: Heh. So I guess the food of love is my
ARTIST: Hush. This film works better when you don’t speak.
(They have sex.)
TEEN: I love you.
(Teen leaves.)

MOM: Knock knock! Oh Mr. Artist, it was so good of you to take my son and I out sight seeing. It’s clear that you’re interested in me and I’d just like to say …
ARTIST: Get out.

Act Three: College Days

FOL Losing Interest
The artist has lost interest.

Scene Four: New York. Six Months Later.
TEEN: Act three? But the film’s only halfway through. What do I do now?
MANAGER: Not much.
TEEN: Well, I got into Julliard. I want to be a classical pianist.
MANAGER: You’re not good enough. But you can be a page turner again.
MANAGER: Sure. So… sex?
TEEN: … Okay.
(Afterwards Teen steals Manager’s photo of the Artist and leaves.)

Scene Five: Artist’s Apartment
MOM: Where is my son?! Why does he have three Playgirls and a photo of you in his suitcase?
MANAGER: Yes, why would an 18-year-old boy have a photo of my boyfriend in his suitcase?
ARTIST: Because… well… he’s… a fan… and… in love with me.
MANAGER: Oh, come now. That boy is a social climber. He hits on me every time we meet. After all “If music be…”
MANAGER: Say it.
ARTIST: This is hack writing.
MANAGER: It’s the title.
ARTIST: I KNOW IT’S THE TITLE! If your film is about musicians and your title is “Food of Love” you DO. NOT. NEED. to quote the Shakespearean verse that the title is from!

Scene Six: Son’s Dorm Room
MOM: You never call. You rarely visit. And now you’re sleeping with older men! I went to a PFLAG meeting and they told me that…
MOM: You know what? F*** YOU! F*** YOU, YOU UNGRATEFUL LITTLE $***!
TEEN: Wow. Does the script actually let you say that?
MOM: Sadly no. Anyway, I saw your artist and his boyfriend.
MOM: There, there. Men treat me like garbage too. Now we have something in common.
(Teen and Mom lie down in bed and count the glow stars on the ceiling.)
TEEN: Call me by your name and I’ll call you…
MOM: Hush. This film is better when you don’t speak.


The appetite may sicken, and so die.

FOL Stars in the Sky
Paging Doctor Freud.

“He hides from the fact that he’s been used. And is being used.” ~ Actor Kevin Bishop. 2002 interview.

Kevin Bishop was best known for starring in Muppet Treasure Island. A few years later he would headline sketch comedy shows. I don’t know why he’s so wooden and humorless here. A critic for NewNowNext assumed the straight actor couldn’t handle all the gay love scenes. I think he’s more comfortable with nudity than he is with dialogue. Maybe it was the accent?

Juliet Stevenson’s daffy mother carries the film’s third act. She pushes hard to wake up her sleepy co-star. She’s obnoxious in the early scenes, as intended, but finds strength when her protective instincts take over. She’d play the stressed mother of a gay son again in a better film; 2015’s Departure.

Perhaps the script was hopeless. Director and screenwriter Ventura Pons was making his first English language film. He adapted it from David Leavitt’s 1998 novel The Page Turner. Pons keeps Leavitt’s romance straightforward  but the plot becomes a jumble once they return to New York. Why does Bishop make no effort to contact the artist? Why does he give up on music? Why does he sleep with the manager?  David Kehr, of the New York Times, put it best when he wrote “”Food of Love” becomes a completely different film according to which motivation you choose, and unfortunately Mr. Pons has tried to choose all of them at once.”

Food of Love. Six Months Later.
My favorite caption.

Food of Love is currently streaming on TUBI. You can watch it here. For more reviews of LGBT media click here.