The Self-Destructing Chef of Stephen Graham Seasons One-Take Restaurant Drama
Restaurants are notoriously volatile operations, even though showbiz’s lure around food has elevated them to a level of sparkle, grandeur, and desirability beyond being places to simply have a meal. Movies generally don’t bother to capture the stressful chaos of a full-blast kitchen made up of diverse and overworked personalities; the stories we get instead usually focus on star chefs as heroic leaders or cuisine lovingly photographed as balm for the soul.
But all that passion usually comes at a price, which makes British indie “Boiling Point” – set in a London hotspot on a decisive night, with Stephen Graham as the edgy and preoccupied chef – a rare attempt to fight with what’s going on inside those cramped, pressurized spaces. It’s also an admirable dud, insofar as its strengths still compete with an unfortunate artistic choice on the part of director-co-writer Philip Barantini: to shoot “Boiling Point” in one shot.
One-take movies are always feats of bravery, whether shot genuinely without interruption (“Russian Ark”) or designed to look like it with clever editing (“Birdman”, “1917”). But the movies hardly get any better because of it. It’s easy to understand how Barantini could equate the frenetic flow of a restaurant with an energy that never stops, and it’s true that a scenario like “Boiling Point” is perhaps better suited to this kind of virtuosity. than other types of stories.
But never cut is also a kind of never choose, and the various interpersonal dynamics created by Barantini and James Cummings’ storyline deserve more – reaction shots, spatial variation, temporal manipulation – than a visual gadget designed to appear fast but that grows. tiring as shown by its aesthetic constraints.
What always creeps in is the cast, starting with Graham’s Andy Jones, breaking into his buzz-generating restaurant late in the minutes leading up to an incredibly busy night with clearly a lot going on (and in his system, perhaps, if the sticky sips from that water bottle are any indication). A first round of shouting at his staff carries a slight puff of cover for his own mistakes, but it’s also clear that his core team – led by the reliable and keen-eyed sous-chef Carly (a wonderful Vinette Robinson) and chef fiery kitchen chef Freeman (Ray Panthaki) – are ready to do whatever it takes to make the night a night to remember.
They’ll need it too, as Andy’s former mentor-partner Alistair Skye (Jason Flemyng), whose rise to celebrity chef status, and the fact that his mate is an upscale restaurant critic (Lourdes Faberes), clearly irritates Andy, adding an extra layer of tension to the night service.
“Boiling Point” is best for making us aware of the mistakes, humiliations and assaults that make service industry work brutal work, especially when it depends on the fluidity of communication and a good dose of indignation swallowed. There’s the obnoxious big spender who talks sweetly to the blond white waiter, but when he has to interact with a black waitress becomes rude and insulting. An off-menu order from an obnoxious table of Instagram food influencers is accepted by traveling hostess Beth (Alice Feetham) without any consideration for the kitchen’s ability to fill it.
This latest dilemma leads to the film’s best-written and best-acted moment, as the underrated Carly explosively reduces Beth’s disrespect, a raw screed on disrespect and unfairness imagine being able to repeat itself in restaurants around the world.
But this inter-employee dynamic must share the space with the less satisfying and predictable story of Andy and Alistair, which is affected by an even bigger turning point for the restaurant, linked to the surprise proposal of a dinner for his little one. friend, whom you can see coming from a mile away. As “Boiling Point” brings its strands of friction to a head, the initial intensity of Graham’s portrayal of a bruised and self-destructive character is dispelled by the film’s temporal rigidity and the invariably blah moments after the minor characters that we know how to be there to give the main actors time to prepare for their next moment.
Graham, Robinson and Barantini’s thematic preoccupations with restaurant operations are sufficiently powerful ingredients. It’s a shame they were subjected to the single note aroma of a single take film.
“Boiling Point” opens in US theaters Friday and On Demand Tuesday.