“Eating Raoul” is a movie I had never seen before last night, but I remember seeing the box on the shelves of pretty much every video store I ever visited or worked at way back when. Mistakenly judging it by its cover, it never looked appealing to me, my perception being that it was low-budget, low-brow, one-joke humor that I was simply never in the mood for.
While I wasn’t entirely wrong, I have to say it was pretty enjoyable and got a good laugh out of me once or twice. Writer/director Paul Bartel stars alongside B-movie legend Mary Woronov as Paul & Mary Bland, a mutually-chaste but happily married couple living a meager life as a wine seller and nurse respectively. They share an ambition to open their own high-end restaurant, but lack the funds to do so.
That’s about all I can say about the film without spoiling a plot which involves swingers, a dominatrix, a professional locksmith/thief, murder, grand theft auto, and cannibalism. Robert Beltran, many years before his turn as Chakotay on Star Trek Voyager, also stars as the locksmith and the titular Raoul. The humor is racially motivated at times, and lacks the satirical edge present in Blazing Saddles (the gold standard for pre-Chappelle race-based humor), but it’s never mean-spirited and used sparingly.
What makes the film is Bartel & Woronov’s completely straight-faced performances. They wear their characters (two-dimensional and cartoonish though they may be) like well-fitting suits, and share a genuine chemistry. A quick IMDB search reveals that they collaborated on no fewer than 17 films before Bartel’s death in 2000, and I kinda want to see them all now. I also enjoyed the sheer originality of the story – I had no idea where the plot was going to go, and movies like this are rare these days.
Overall grade: straight B. Worth a watch.