director : Bob Giraldi
script : Rick Shaughnessy, Brian Kalata
cinematography : Tim Ives
editing : Allyson C Johnson
music : Alexander Lasarenko
main cast : Danny Aiello, Edoardo Ballerini, Kirk Acevedo, Sandra Bernhard
Lightweight but very enjoyable comedy-drama covering one night in a trendy Manhattan trattoria. Owner Gino (Aiello) must cope with a power cut, stroppy customers, temperamental kitchen staff, gangsters hungry for a piece of his profitable ‘action’, and, worst of all, the city’s top food critic (Bernhard). Passions run high both above and below stairs – with violent results.
By packing so much incident into a single night, the film forfeits plausibility but gains much more in terms of atmosphere and energy. Screenwriters Rick Shaughnessy and Brian Kalata have either worked long stretches in this kind of high-pressure environment, or else digested every page of Anthony Bourdain’s bestseller Kitchen Confidential. Like Bourdain, they revel in the no-nonsense, let’s-get-the-job done atmosphere of this claustrophobic world, where even the humblest sous-chef can see himself as part of a heroic nightly struggle.
Director Giraldi’s is a little heavy-handed with some of his contributions, especially the background muzak, but the hand-held camerawork and economical editing capture the chaotic buzz of restaurant life. It’s no surprise to learn that Gino’s is a real trattoria, one in which Aiello really is a major shareholder. From the ever-reliable star down, the casting is across-the-board strong, which is just as well, given the scene-stealingly spectacular dishes that are constantly being served up. It’s all kept boiling along so quickly that you never have time to anticipate the satisfying final twist, and the finished dish is surprisingly palatable – a perfect hors d’oeuvre for a post-cinema slap-up feast.
31st October, 2001
(seen Oct-30-01, National Film Theatre – London Film Festival)
by Neil Young
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