'Soof': SBIFF Review
An ambitious homemaker tries to make a go in the hospitality business but risks disrupting family unity in Antoinette Beumer’s Dutch feature
Middle-class preoccupations are treated with bland humor in Soof, a sporadically amusing family comedy from The Netherlands that was originally released domestically in 2013. Men and women experiencing midlife crises are now so common in global cinema that a filmmaker needs to introduce truly unique characters or situations to make a lasting impression, but director Antoinette Beumer does neither, increasing the likelihood that Soof will fade from view once its film-festival lifespan expires.
An unremarkable domestic setting finds middle-aged multi-tasker Soof (Lies Visschedijk) constantly juggling a freelance catering business, her husband Kasper’s (Fedja van Huet) busy work schedule and three kids (including twin boys). Somebody needs to hold down the homefront, however, since Kasper always seems to be in overdrive with his demanding job, rarely sparing time for her or the kids. With her catering jobs failing to cover expenses though, it seems that Soof will need to develop a new strategy if she expects to become profitable.
So it’s fortuitous when she meets Jim (Daniel Karaty), an American choreographer with endless connections who becomes instantly fixated on her after Soof caters a private dinner where he’s a guest. As he refers her jobs almost nonstop, business takes off, but Soof can barely keep up while managing her family affairs as well. She brings on more help and Kasper even takes a sabbatical from work to provide additional assistance, although having him constantly around the house is actually more stressful for Soof, particularly since she can barely rely on him to manage the house and kids while she tries to keep up with catering gigs.
Jim’s referrals quickly reveal an ulterior motive as he becomes more assertive with his attentions and, feeling neglected by Kasper, Soof responds. At first it’s more of a casual flirtation, but gradually Jim starts wanting to get more serious. At the same time, Kasper develops an infatuation with a pretty blonde woman who lives nearby and before long, a split looks imminent, although it’s hard to see how it could work out financially for either of them.
The lackluster script by Marjolein Beumer and Sylvia Witteman offers almost nothing new in terms of narrative or style, delivering barely warmed-over situations and characterizations. Despite extensive credits in Dutch film and TV, Visschedijk and van Huet can’t do much to enliven the boilerplate plot, which is further burdened by stock characters that include Soof’s wacky mom and the two unconditionally supportive women who help her out with catering. As the slick American interloper, Karaty smirks his way through most of the movie without managing to do much actual acting, but the role serves its purpose.
It wouldn’t be unexpected for a film centered around food preparation to offer some tasty set pieces featuring irresistible dishes, but Beumer blasts through most of the food-prep and party scenes with barely a glance at the culinary creations, just to get to the next embarrassing situation that Soof needs to endure to remind her how precious her husband and kids really are to her. The film’s conclusion piles on the cliches, all set to a rousing dance number, but at least it doesn’t disappoint expectations.
Production companies: Key Film, Milsteet Films
Cast: Lies Visschedijk, Fedja van Huet, Daniel Karaty
Director: Antoinette Beumer
Screenwriters: Marjolein Beumer, Sylvia Witteman
Producers: Hans de Wolf, Hanneke Niens
Executive producer: Ada Goossens
Director of photography: Jeroen de Bruin
Production designer: Kurt Loyens
Editor: Marc Bechtold
Music: Melcher Meirmans, Chrisnanne Wiegel
No rating, 96 minutes