Lisa Schwarzbaum tells us why she loves watching people eat and drink on screen

Why our film critic loves watching people who eat on camera

In The Weather Man, Michael Caine and Nicolas Cage share a meal as father and son. And while Caine, with his big Wallace & Gromit choppers, attends to the morsels on his plate, I marvel, as I always do, at the magnificence of mastication in movies, a skill too often taken for granted by everyday diners.

I love to watch people eating and drinking on screen: Unlike the simulation of movie coupling, real chewing and swallowing goes on — a very sexy sight. Yet unlike amateur food-processing, on-camera eating is regularly altered to fit character. A sad wife might push little bits of food around on her plate, never lifting fork to mouth (does anyone dawdle poetically like that in real life?), while a seducer may be known by the way he or she lifts a wineglass and pauses, making eye contact, before the sip. (Lipstick never smears, spinach never sticks to teeth.) The small, determined, well-mannered bites of nourishment Caine takes off good china in The Weather Man — a throwaway bit of stage business from an old pro — speak mouthfuls.