Dinner Rush, TheReviewed By Thom
Posted 12/21/01 18:24:08
(Worth A Look)
Sandra Bernhard gets top billing but doesn’t have very much screentime. The character she plays is the most important food writer in New York, Jennifer Freely. I suppose that is supposed to telegraph. Bernhard seemed worlds away from the old Sandra that lived for the cosmopolitan glitterati and her dining companion in the film was like a bookmark for the shallow and pretentious bon vivant who make more out of their good taste then is tasteful.There was a moment in the film when the editing went wonky, which surprised me because the film is cut so elegantly. Restaurateur Louis Cropa is talking to the daughter of his partner, slain by a couple of wannabe mafioso. She says, “I’m going to go pay the bill and go home.” Louis (Danny Aiello) says, “You won’t pay for anything here.” And then she inexplicably replies, “I think I already paid.” She said like it would be an insult for her to be asked to pay, yet when she said she was going to go pay, she said it like she had every intention of paying and she didn’t expect any special treatment.
I’m only pointing it out because that is what critics are supposed to do. By the end of the movie, the part of me that just likes watching movies, forgot all about it. It was like a mistake the film makers made on purpose so the other kids in the class wouldn’t think they were too good.
The film takes place in one night at a trendy TriBeca eatery called Gigino’s. The traditional italian menu has been transformed by the visionary nouvelle cuisine of Louis’s Son, Udo (Edoardo Ballerini). Udo is a demanding chef and summarily fires a line cook for not having sharp knives. His vision turned the staid eatery into one of the hottest restaurants in Manhatten with three month waits for reservations. But it is the second son, Duncan (Kirk Acevedo), who prepares his father’s food. Louis doesn’t understand the new New York and the shift from food as the center of his traditional Italian culture to dining as entertainment. Udo knows it is important to invent and reinvent, to astound and seduce. So while he’s a hit with the world weary sophisticates, he is something of an alien to his father who longs for the old days when his wife ran the business and served “good, nourishing food”.
Louis has more than cappellini cooking in the kitchen. Gigino’s has also been a front for a bookmaking operation. While the mob ties might have been soft, they boil over and attract the two goons from Queens. Duncan’s gambling habit has put the restaurant and himself in danger but Louis has found a way to take care of the problem when he invites a police detective to dine the same night as the thugs.
Like a well orchestrated meal, the film serves up the main course along with appetizing side dishes. The waitress Marti (Summer Phoenix) who is an artist confronting the self-important gallery owner and a table of celebrated artists. The hostess who is having an affair with both Udo and Duncan and must eventually decide which one she wants to get serious about. The surviving daughter of the slain partner and her romantic mafia widow poignancy.
The film was shot entirely at executive producer Phil Suarez’s restaurant in Tribeca called Gigino Trattoria. This comes as no surprise from a man who has had a succesful career producing award winning commercials since the 60’s. The script spares nothing in promoting Giginos and another of his award winning restaurants, Patria, also in Manhatten. Bob Giraldi is also an experienced restaurateur, having opened ten succesful restaurants in New York.
The back story of the creators comes through in other ways. Writer Shaughnessy is vice president and creative director of a large interactive firm, iXL, a company known to agressively recruit the best and brightest. His writing partner, Brian Kalata is a lawyer who left his job to develop Dinner Rush. I guess there is some wisdom in developing a career outside of show business. In an early scene, Louis’s partner brings up the idea of developing a website for the restaurant. An idea already explored by Suarez with his StarChefs.com.
The energy and the drama reach an almost operatic pitch. The hottest restaurant in the city may be destroyed if the son, the celebrated chef, can’t take over the business, that is if the mobsters don’t take it away before that. The snobby gallery owner is entertaining the most important artists of the time while the most important food writer is kept waiting at a less than desirable table in the corner. Two mafioso shaking down the owner while Duncan loses his shirt to them over a bad bet.
The movie begins and ends with a murder. The dominoes are lined up to be tipped over at the very end for the startling finale. The final scene almost feels like the whole show and the first hour and a half was moving us towards an orgasmic resolution. Like fearful alchemy, the world is transformed in a moment.Food, Sex, Story. It all works the same way. Director Bob Giraldi and writers Rich Shaughnessy and Brian Kalata showcase their skill and their talent with this intricate and intimate movie.
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