Over 350 million cups of coffee are consumed every day in the United States. In the UK it’s 55 million. We drink it for pleasure, for work (for those lucky enough to work in the industry) and for the caffeine boost it delivers.
And yet cinema, which supposedly mirrors our hopes and dreams and daily struggles, consistently fails to depict coffee accurately or positively.
Why could this be?
Like food, the act of drinking coffee on film is an afterthought at best and completely bewildering at worst. A thing to hold, a thing to stare at, a thing to be poured: coffee is treated as decoration, props to make the scene feel more real.
Some directors do put some effort in: characters drink coffee constantly in Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs; numerous Coen Brothers and Martin Scorsese scenes take place in coffee shops.
This series of short blogs will examine films that take coffee seriously; films in which coffee or coffee shops play an important part; and occasionally films that just involve coffee in some way.
To kick things off, a quick look at a film about love, self respect, crazy battles with evil exes, and, of course, coffee.
Coffee in Scott Pilgrim vs The World
Edgar Wright’s 2010 movie Scott Pilgrim vs The World takes a 21st century approach to the sacred brew. Its characters drink coffee like normal people drink coffee: casually, and often.
Set in Toronto, the film involves the eponymous hero, played by Michael Cera, on a quest to win the heart of the mysterious Ramona Flowers (Mary-Elizabeth Winstead) by battling and defeating her seven evil exes.
In multiple scenes there is someone holding a coffee cup: the morning after a date; on the set of a movie; while stalking a movie star on that same set. It humanises the characters and feels like more than simple decoration.
Multiple characters work at Second Cup, Canada’s specialty coffee chain - in an unusually honest representation of modern employment, Julie Powers (Aubrey Plaza) works three part time jobs apparently simultaneously (#livingwage).
Coffee even plays a pivotal role in the story, helping Scott when he faces destruction at the hands of vegan bass-playing Todd (Brandon Routh). Scott offers coffee as a conciliatory gesture, but switches the soy creamer for half-and-half. The dairy destroys Todd's vegan powers and renders him helpless.
Many movies treat coffee indifferently, but in Scott Pilgrim it feels natural, genuine. It’s a part of the lives of the characters in the film, much like it is for most people in the modern world.
Coffee seeps into the cracks of everyday life in a way that most beverages don’t, so it’s heartening to see a film that blends this truth into almost every scene in a sincere, unselfconscious manner.