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What’s Cooking, (2000) is a comedy movie directed by Gurinder Chadha. The movie runs on a Thanksgiving Day, whereby four ethnically different families, Asian, Jewish, Latino and African-American, gather for the traditional dinner meal. Each family, however, has its own distinct list of problems, and a pretty funny scenario ensues. The movie commence as they prepare for Thanksgiving, bring out their different stories which overlap throughout the course of the movie, and at some point it becomes clear that all of them have one objective in common, to keep their families together.

The scenes often sink into melodrama as the different family members scream at each other over family tensions that arise out of their inherent differences in perspective, family conflicts and secrets. It is evident that these differences come up as a result of their distinct races and backgrounds; these aspects assist the author to bring out her key themes, which can be broadly classified into four aspects of race, class, gender, and religion.

The author picks four distinct ethnic groups which provide the diversity needed to look deeply into the main themes she wishes to address. As the film starts, the first theme emanates clearly in the bus, where we find a variety of races signifying their coexistence in the common area. Obviously, different genders are involved and different social classes and religious backgrounds can be noticed right from the beginning.

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A conflict ensues in the Latino family, the Rivers, when Mercedes’ ex-husband gets an invitation for dinner from his son Douglas. Later, an aspect of racism appears when her daughter, Vega, brings home her boyfriend, an Asian, to meet the family. He has to lie to his parents that he is at school preparing for final examinations. Maury Chaykin comes up in the fourth parallel story, regarding a Jewish couple who cannot accept the fact that the woman, Julianna, brought home by their daughter, Kyra Sedgwick, is not just her roommate but her lover. The author successfully manages to hint on disputes across class and religious beliefs here.

The families go about preparing different delicacies, all tantalizing but pretty different due to their different religions and self-imposed class status. Other family complications arise as each story unfolds, but underneath it all there is a genuine air of love and mutual respect in the four households.  One of such families is headed by Alfre Woodard. She is struggling to come up with a magnificent dinner under control of her inquisitive mother-in-law, who disapproves her menu as well as her parental skills.

Considering Ann’s protective nature, she sees nothing wrong in Alfre’s husband, her son Dennis Haysber, despite the fact that his son, Erick, is not at home on Thanksgiving Day since the two men have a disagreement over the Erick’s political aspirations and career preferences. Dennis Haysber, a doctor, is almost always at work leaving Alfre to do all the domestic chores and parenting. Gender bias clearly comes out here.

The African-American family comes out as a liberated group which questions everyone’s intentions; they are sociable and welcoming to change. The Latino family portrays a classy people who take any mistakes weightily and value respect for everything they stand for. Asians come out as a strictly traditional society that will do anything not to break a single norm, and expect their children to follow in the teachings of their culture and religion to the letter. The Jewish family, on the other hand, brings out a strictly religious people.

The characters comprising the four families make the story easy to relate to and look realistic. Most importantly, they give it the image of a gratifying gesture of Thanksgiving Day as a unique American family tradition, in disregard of what American origin one belongs.

Evidently, the film depicts an experience that is common to all families irrespective of their race. It is proved by the scene that comes out early in the film when the gun goes off, and they all rush out, get to know each other as neighbors and later learn all the things that they have in common. The most significant aspect is that in all their differences, and amidst all the internal and external struggles affecting them, they seek to keep solidarity of their families.

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