6.61 h 43 min2000PG-13
Starring Uma Thurman (The Avengers, Pulp Fiction), Gerard Depardieu (The Man In The Iron Mask) and Tim Roth (Rob Roy), Vatel is based on the true story of an ordinary man, a decadent king and the woman caught between them! In the west of France, Prince de Conde has a scheme to save his bankrupt province: he'll regain the favor of King Louis XIV with a weekend of spectacle and merriment.
Roland Joffe
Gerard DepardieuUma ThurmanTim Roth
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Supporting actors
Julian SandsJulian GloverTimothy Spall
PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
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4.6 out of 5 stars

354 global ratings

  1. 75% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 13% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 7% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 3% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 2% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

w. c. mansonReviewed in the United States on May 27, 2020
3.0 out of 5 stars
The class-antagonism of this historical episode is under-dramatized
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In 17th century royal courts, highly skilled artisans were treated as little more than disposable servants. Based on real events, the script could nonetheless, with some dramatic license, have given the fiercely independent Vatel-- wonderfully portrayed by Depardieu--some fiery speeches defying the cruel whims of both his "master" the Prince and Louis IV. Such dramatic confrontation, traditional in historical epics about plebeian heroes challenging the powerful, could have produced an eloquently moving climax to the film. Although it would be too much to expect Vatel, in the late 17th century, to be a "proto-republican" of sorts, he could have at least prefigured Figaro and Jean-Jacques. Instead, he chooses the "easy way out" (futile "passive resistance").
Moreover, at least two-thirds of the movie concentrates entirely on the garish spectacle: languid, overdressed voluptuaries gourmandizing over a surfeit of colorfully prepared dishes--a visual glut distinctly unappetizing to this viewer.
Kathleen O'ConnorReviewed in the United States on March 26, 2016
5.0 out of 5 stars
A Stunning Period Film of the Life & Times of the 17th C French Court--Costumes/Art Direction & Acting/Storytelling Unparalled
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This is a fabulous film--obviously known for its stunning period costumes and art direction. But the cast is first rate and working at the top of their bent--Depardieu is full of integrity and presence as the household steward Vatel whose tragedy is trusting in the honor of his employer, Uma Thurman as the lovely and gentle/kindly aristocrat caught up in the ugly toils of power and sex in Louis XIV's court, and Tim Roth in his inimitable evil characterization of a corrupt and heartless member of the court, pimping and manipulating for Louis XIV. I love period films when they're intelligent and attempt to do justice to the time/place--this one does. it is a portrait of a court of insane extravagance, monstrous pride and corruption, and the toils of politics and power woven around an absolute monarch, the Sun King. It's not a happy story, but it filled with truth about how people deal with unjust power--do they submit and corrupt themselves or do they take whatever path they can to be free? That is the conundrum of the two main characters--what are they to do to be true to themselves?
4 people found this helpful
lawrence chanReviewed in the United States on May 14, 2015
5.0 out of 5 stars
excellent period drama. highly entertaining and not to be overlooked.
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Brilliant film. It's like watching a Peter Greenaway movie within a documentary perspective enhanced by the luscious strains of a Enio Morricone score and baroque period theatrical stagings set to the music of Jean Phillipe Rameau.

In essence the film portrays a slice of "life at court" in the literal sense; which in spite of it's depictions of superficially sumptuous delights; is in fact a glimpse into the grotesqueries of unbridled excess and treacherous machinations of the French nobility during the reign of the Sun King, Louis XIV.

Vatel is a relatively obscure figure in the storied life of the Bourbon Dynasty; he is a minor foot note at best, however his position as Majordomo or Chief Steward of the royal house of Louis de Bourbon, Prince de Condé provides a perfect window from which we can observe the sinister, self serving intrigues of the various courtiers, ministers and parasitic entourage of the Royal Court.

The abbreviated story of the Sun King's visit to the estate of the prince is a test of loyalty and an attempt to broker a reconciliation between the ruling monarch and the Prince de Condé whose family is a cadet branch of the Royal House of Bourbon.
The complexities of deciphering the Bourbon family tree is an arduous task that contributes little or no value to the film and the role of the Prince de Condé in the Franco-Spanish war is far too complicated and expansive to expound upon here, although the tale of this crucial visit is the perfect springboard for the films plot.

Gerard Depardieu delivers a most convincing portrayal as the encumbered Chief Steward in charge of creating a series of elaborate banquets and amusements for the royal court.
Uma Thurman provides an equally satisfying performance as Anne de Montausier; a noble woman recently summoned to the royal court to serve as Lady in Waiting to the queen.

The interaction between these two pivotal characters is a highly unlikely fabrication, although it provides a convenient basis from which we can expound upon the circumstances of their respective roles and the resulting consequences of this fictitious pairing.

Anne de Montausier ultimately tires of navigating the minefield of complex intrigues of court life abandoning her role as Lady in Waiting and retires to her family estate.

Vatel’s alleged suicide is depicted as an unlikely dissatisfaction with a royal directive to leave the Prince de Condé and accept a position at the royal court at Versailles.
The depiction of his faithful obedience to the prince which borders on a carefully distanced friendship is palatable although probably exaggerated.

If we are to take the suicidal motives on face value as depicted in the film, it disproves the absurd but popular notion that a mishandled delivery of fish was the reason for self annihilation.

The film suggests that he no longer wished to serve the Royal prerogatives at Versailles and bemoans the the fact that persons of his low birth and rank are nothing but tools and puppets of the ruling class.

This supposition is contradicted by the fact that previous to his position as majordomo to the Prince de Condé; he was also Chief Steward to Nicolas Fouquet, the doomed former Minister of Finance; so a directive to relocate to Versailles was nothing more than a glorified promotion, and Vatel would most certainly not be any stranger to satisfying the whims of the royal court.

It is hinted that Vatel was detrimentally obsessed with the preparations for the royal visit and had not slept for the majority of the grandiose 3 day fête. It is this premise that is the most likely reason for his suicide, no matter how unromantic and anticlimactic this may seem.
it is essential for the audience to exercise at least a modicum of common sense to overlook some of the ridiculous allegations associated with Vatel’s suicide.

The extreme effects of sleep deprivation culminating in suicide is coldly clinical and decidedly bereft of any dramatic operatic like conclusion to this story, but the premise that somebody kills themselves over a missed delivery of fish is outrageous beyond any sense of reality and patently comical.

All in all, this overly romanticized and lushly embellished production is impressively entertaining and visually stunning.
2 people found this helpful
RavenReviewed in the United States on January 13, 2014
5.0 out of 5 stars
Wonderful Period Film
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This is a wonderful film about a master cook, whose title is Master of the Revels, during the reign of Charles II. He, played by Gerard Depardieu, works for a count who orders him to come up with thrilling meals with entertainment for three days, when Charles is visiting his estate. It is important that these three days must entrance the king so he will appoint the count as general of hs army. Uma Thurman plays a new lady in waiting to the queen with whom Depardieu falls in love. The film is full of court intrique, passion and, ultimately, betrayal. This may sound boring to some &, if it does, it is my fault as a critic, as this film is perfectly cast and the acting superb. I'm not even a big fan of Depardieu, but he is great in this film. The costuming and set dressing is colorful and lush & provides the perfect stage for the action. I highly recommend this film.
4 people found this helpful
Dr.L.Reviewed in the United States on December 16, 2013
5.0 out of 5 stars
A feast for the eyes
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Yes, a feast for the eyes, and I'm not necessarily talking about Umma Thurman (but that's not bad either). If you are into a kind of culinary history, you will find this movie amazing. The acting is first rate with Depardieu as the chef of a nobleman who also is a general in the king's army. Set in the time of Louis XIV, you get to see not only the decadence of the rich, but the oppression of the poor and powerless. Vatel (Depardieu's character) is a dedicated and fair man with a strong will. He is the ultimate event planner; food, music, fireworks, singers and scenery are all within his talents to create and organize. Unfortunately, he falls for Umma Thurman's character, who is also part of the king's entourage.....OK, she's a little more than a part of the entourage. A tense social drama.....and you find out how many hearts of birds it takes to treat the gout! (Watch the film, you'll understand.) Colorful, delicious, extravagant...yes, a true feast for the eyes!
Paul KaoReviewed in the United States on July 24, 2014
4.0 out of 5 stars
Review of Vatel
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Gerard Depardieu plays Vatel, the man responsible for making sure everything goes smoothly for the local noble when Louis XIV comes for a visit. Everything means there's room enough for all the visitors, the food is fantastic and the entertainment is entertaining. If things go smoothly, Vatel's nobleman will get appointed to a high military post and can repay all his debts. Tim Roth plays the king's point man, making sure things are up to the king's standards, and Roth is not above abusing his position. Uma Thurman plays one of the queen's ladies in waiting. If you watch this film and don't know French history, then two of Louis XIV's mistresses were Louise de Valliere and Madam de Montespan. Both had kids by Louis, and both appear in this film, if only briefly. De Valliere was first, and de Montespan was Louis' mistress when he died.
I bought this film to replace a VHS tape in our local French film library.
NattiecloReviewed in the United States on September 24, 2016
4.0 out of 5 stars
Must see historic piece that says something true and serious about Freedom and Free Will.
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Based on a true story. Vatel is the granddaddy of French Gastronomy and Hospitality (to this day, there is a hotel and restaurant management school named after him). The costumes and music are all period accurate; though I tend to think they would have played Mouret or deLalande rather than Handel (who was after all the English Court Composer). But that's a minor quibble. This is a magnificent period piece, that has serious things to say about life in the French Baroque Era of an absolute monarchy. As one of my students said: "When you see how these people lived, the French Revolution a century later makes sense."
2 people found this helpful
JBReviewed in the United States on March 16, 2013
5.0 out of 5 stars
Lush and Wonderful
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No, I cannot for one instant believe that Gerard Depardieu could have any kind of romantic influence over the likes of Uma Thurman. A woman clever enough to become Louis XIV's mistress would have nothing to do with a lowly steward, no matter how kind and charming he may be. But every other aspect of this movie is gorgeous: Vatel's passion and talent for orchestrating magical events, all the crazy intrigue, excess, and debauchery of the 17th century French court, and all the amazing costumes, sets and cinematography required to recreate the story! There's a funny little music blunder: The fireworks scene features Handel's "Music for the Royal Fireworks" written in 1749 ('Vatel' takes place in 1671 - oops!).
One person found this helpful
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