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STUDIO: MPI Home Video
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 113 miniutes
• Feature-length commentary
• Making Bitter Feast
• Jo Maggio Interviews Mario Batali
• Deleted Scene & Alternate Ending
• Feast Portraits
Misery with a blogger.
Starring James Le Gros, Joshua Leonard, Amy Seimetz, Larry Fessenden, Megan Hilty, John Speredakos, Mario Batali
Written and directed by Joe Maggio
Peter Grey (Le Gros) is a prominent chef. You know, the kind with a TV show on Food Network. Unfortunately for him, his life has been completely shattered by a food blogger named JT Franks (Leonard) who gives his new restaurant a scathing review and a co-host whose only addition to the show is making fun of Grey. Franks ain’t having the best time of it either: turns out he’s become a total curmudgeon since the recent death of his son. Anyway, Grey handles this all in a fairly level-headed manner: he kidnaps and tortures Franks!
Considering this movie’s claim to fame was being dubbed a “horror movie for foodies” as if that’s a good thing and something that foodies have been clamoring for, it wasn’t nearly as fetid as I imagined it would be. Although the two aspects of the movie that I thought would be the best parts – James Le Gros and Joshua Leonard – actually ended up being the biggest downfalls of the whole smorgasbord.
Writer/director Joe Maggio rushed his first act, dousing it with extra helpings of blatant exposition, in order to get us to the meat and potatoes of the film that pits Le Gros’ Chef Grey against food blogger JT Franks in the battle du jour between artist and critic. In one scene, we find out that Franks is currently a total prick but wasn’t always, is in a rocky marriage that is crumbling because they had a kid who died from cancer, and whose wife is currently going into the hospital for fertilization treatments so they can try to make up for their loss. It’s one of those moments that just keeps going well beyond where you’re ready for the scene to change, escalating to the point where the revelation that should be rather brutal to take ends up being just absurd, almost comical.
“I swear to fucking Christ, if you call me Emeril one more time, I will cut your heart out with a spoon, roast it and serve it with a red wine sauce with a side of couscous!”
But then again, we do need to get this movie moving. Maggio knows that this isn’t some intense drama about a cynical writer coping with the loss of his first-born; it’s about torturing those assholes who flippantly write disparaging remarks about the painstaking creative efforts of those who offer their works to the world for all to see.
From what we get to know about JT Franks before he gets kidnapped by Grey, it’s hard to feel sorry for the guy. The whole five-minute-long scene about his kid and everything wasn’t enough to instill much sympathy for someone who makes his living off being more pretentious in his impassioned critique than any chef could equal in his cooking. As a blogger and critic myself, I can’t stand when people take positions simply to be an opposing, voracious voice — not just playing devil’s advocate, which is beneficial for a healthy debate, but always counter-arguing for the sake of being that guy. Apparently chef Peter Grey feels the same way, only is willing to take it to extremes that I wouldn’t.
“Yeah, it’s a vegetable peeler but someone sure could use a shave. Amiright? Amiright?”
While Franks tends to be the one we feel for viscerally – even though he’s a dick, he doesn’t exactly deserve the treatment he’s getting – the core of the story flows through Grey. Seemingly a loner since childhood when he and his brother had a fairly traumatic relationship, Grey seems like a man always teetering on the edge of total destruction, held together only by his own lack of self-esteem. He gets walked over in every aspect of his life, from this annoying blogger to the investors of his restaurant, to the obnoxious co-host on his Food Network-style cooking show “The Feast.” Had Maggio wanted us to completely side with Grey without second guessing, he would’ve had Grey torturing Peg, whose idea of adding color commentary is cracking wise about how much cholesterol an egg has – to which, of course, the crowd laughs uproariously.
Instead, Maggio wants us to be torn between the critic and the artist, the blogger and the chef, the destroyer and the creator. Unfortunately this interesting dichotomy doesn’t carry quite as much gravity as it could because Le Gros and Leonard couldn’t bring more to their characters. Neither a star, both have been in solid films over the years, especially Le Gros, who played devious and rather nuts in Point Break, yet couldn’t even bother to provide a twinkle in his eye in this movie. While Grey should’ve been a restrained maniac whose fire lie smoldering within, Le Gros plays him too straight, coming across as if he has no personality at all. Leonard, meanwhile, goes back to his roots to delve into some horror after having spent some time down the indie route, and ends up tending to overact at times. To be fair, he doesn’t have much of a backstory to work from, nor the physical ability to do much more than be tied up and do whatever Grey tells him to do in order to avoid more pain and anguish.
This is what would really happen if a 12 year old boy freakishly switched bodies with his dad.
As far as being a horror flick for whose who love food, it hits both notes fairly well, even if it’s relatively tame on all aspects. In between bouts of sadistic challenges, like “Top Chef” crossed with The Running Man, Maggio’s camera fondly follows the hands of Grey (clearly an accomplished chef’s hands standing in for Le Gros) as he expertly prepares sumptuous meals in the kitchen, replete with soft music playing over the soundtrack. Not-quite-food-porn to cleanse your palette from the not-quite-torture-porn. Like watching Hostel on USA followed by “30 Minute Meals” — you get your blood and guts but not from the one you think you will.
Nothing too spectacular — what you’d expect from a direct-to-DVD flick, other than the wealth of extras: feature commentary with Maggio and producers Peter Phok, Brent Kunkle, and sound designer Graham Reznick; along with a making-of featurette and some others tasty treats. Also, it’s a wonderful thing that Maggio stuck with the ending he chose rather than the alternate provided here.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars
JT, if you think that shit’s bad, you should check out Fox News Comments. Bru-tal.