What's Cooking (2000) - Synopsis

What's Cooking (2000) - heading

You are invited to a tasty Thanksgiving dinner that will all at once transport you to four different worlds and take you home again. On the menu this November are turkey, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie - but also tamales, spring rolls, kugel, mac & cheese, love, betrayal, sibling rivalry, prejudice, politics, uninvited guests, unexpected accidents, outrageous conversations - and all the other succulent and spicy surprises that arise when modern families come together for an annual meal.

Coming together is the theme of "WHAT'S COOKING?," Gurinder Chadha's funny, mouth-watering and deeply moving vision of 21st century diversity and the future of the American family - all set on Thanksgiving. Flowing from California kitchen to California kitchen on this day of reunions and homecomings, Chadha follows four seemingly disparate families as they confront differences and familiarity; laughter and festering anger; shiitake mushrooms and mashed potatoes; near-disaster and, ultimately, the astonishing power of love to connect them all.

"WHAT'S COOKING?" is a rapt celebration of families braided from a comic collision of cultures. For starters, there is the rich and successful African-American Williams family. Audrey Williams (ALFRE WOODARD) is a perfectionist attempting to whip up an unimpeachable spread for her yuppie guests and meddling mother-in-law. Ronald (DENNIS HAYSBERT) is a workaholic gubernatorial spin doctor who hasn't been spending much time at home. But as their carefully choreographed evening gets under way, underlying tensions, from the political to the explosively personal, burst apart their smooth family fašade.

Meanwhile, the Avila family is reuniting for a traditional Latino Thanksgiving. As feisty matriarch Elizabeth (MERCEDES RUEHL) prepares the feast, her son Anthony (DOUGLAS SPAIN) is busy inviting the family's philandering, abandoning father Javier (VICTOR RIVERS) to dinner. Javier's arrival causes a sensation - but it is Javier who is in for a major shock when the final guest (A MARTINEZ) rings the bell.

Elsewhere, Herb and Ruth Seelig (LAINIE KAZAN and MAURY CHAYKIN) are welcoming home their beloved daughter Rachel (KYRA SEDGWICK) and her "roommate" Carla (JULIANNA MARGULIES). Despite their obvious relationship, the two must live under a ruse on this day.

Finally, Trinh Nguyen (JOAN CHEN) is dreaming of getting her whole Vietnamese family together for this American holiday but it seems their new life has divided them. Her pride and joy, Jimmy (WILL YUN LEE), claims he's too busy to come home from college; her rebellious teenaged daughter Jenny (KRISTi WU) seems to only sneer and evade; and her middle son Gary (JIMMY PHAN) is hiding a secret so dangerous it will change Thanksgiving for everyone - way beyond the confines of their home.

What is the recipe for today's American family? With a smart, high-energy and boldly voyeuristic camera, Gurinder Chadha and an accomplished ensemble cast peer behind the front doors of ordinary Los Angeleno houses to reveal the sweet and savory mix.