Films through the dessert lens


Sweets in films carry messages, bringing a key plot point, theme, or character into healthier view. Sweets elicit sympathy, expressing love, healing and togetherness, as well as heartbreak, sadness and sickness. Sugar is so facile in films that it can function as the stocky nectar that binds characters to each other or as a poison powder that dries relations to a crumble.

The following list of films employ sweets to tell their stories, showing the different ways sweets can be used to heighten the flavour of a films narrative fiction or feed the premise of a documentary.

  1. Forrest Gump
    When the affable and egoless title character utters, “My momma always said, ‘Life is a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get’”, he sets in motion the film’s key metaphor, as Forrest finds himself a part of the major American cultural events of the second half of the twentieth century, in contrast with the less charmed life of the girl he has loved since boyhood.
  2. Marie Antoinette
    Set against a modern soundtrack and decorated with Ladurée pastel macaroon pyramids to demonstrate Marie Antoinette’s love of all things stylish, pretty and decorative, this amped-up story of the legendary queen of Versailles is a lavish, decadent affair, regardless of whether she actually uttered the phrase “Let them eat cake.”
  3. Grease
    This kitschy teen dream of a musical about love between a good girl and a bad boy includes many misguided attempts at sophistication among the young characters, including drinking wine with Twinkies. “It says right here it is a dessert wine,” says Jan, the chubby compulsive eater in the Pink Ladies.
  4. Pulp Fiction
    This off-kilter crime treasure is so packed with sweet foods it almost induces a coma, including noteworthy scenes with Pop-Tarts, doughnuts, blueberry pie, and a “five-dollar shake” that eases the chill between Mia and Vince, eventually leading them to the dance floor together.
  5. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
    A musical fable about five children who win a chance to visit a magical candy factory, where, when faced with sweet temptations, the reveal their selfishness and suffer an array of confectionary punishments. The 2005 remake, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by director Tim Burton, decreases the sugar and ups the Grand Guignol.

Do you know any other sweet films? Let us know in the comments!

This extract is oxford-companion-to-sugar-and-sweetstaken from The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets. Celebrating sugar while acknowledging its complex history, this Companion is the definitive guide to one of humankind’s greatest sources of pleasure. Like kids in a candy shop, fans of sugar (and aren’t we all?) will enjoy perusing the wondrous variety to be found in this volume. ISBN 9780199313396 | AU$78.95

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