By the end of the Twentieth Century, dining out in Manhattan had
replaced the theater as a popular means of entertainment. Restaurant-goers
would flock to the latest highly praised (sometimes overpriced) spot simply
because it was the chic thing to do. In order to be considered "in," one had
to go out to the trendy hot spots. A typical establishment might be Gigino,
the real-life trattoria that serves as the fictional setting for Dinner Rush, the
second feature directed by Bob Giraldi, whose best work included commercials
and music videos. Screened as part of the "New Directors/New Films" series
at the Museum of Modern Art in early 2001, Dinner Rush arrives in theaters
in all its mouthwateringly delights.
Like Big Night and Babette's Feast, the preparation and presentation
of food is a key element to the plot. The establishment's aging owner (Danny
Aiello in a nice turn) has more or less skirted any trouble from the local
gangsters while operating his own little bookmaking practice on the side.
He's also watched as his son Ugo (Eduardo Ballerini) moved the place from
a friendly neighborhood spot to a wildly successful example of nouvelle cuisine.
Still, Ugo feels underappreciated, since his father (who insists on simple
dishes like sausage and peppers) has not relinquished title to the place.
Ugo's rival -- in more than just the kitchen -- is sous chef Duncan (Kirk
Acevedo), a talented guy who has a gambling problem and is constantly
skirting trouble. On the particular night that the events of Dinner Rush
unfold, two wise guys (Mike McGlone and Alex Corrado) have arrived to make
Duncan an offer he can't refuse.
Rounding out the patrons and employees are a motley crew, including
Nicole (Vivian Wu) who is juggling romances with both Ugo and Duncan
(although leaning toward the latter), waitress Marti (Summer Phoenix) who
also happens to be an aspiring painter, a pompous art critic named
Fitzgerald (Mark Margolis), a trivia-happy bartender (Jamie Harris), an
in-disguise food critic (Sandra Bernhard) and a yuppie patron (John Corbett)
who isn't quite what he seems.
Screenwriters Brian Kalata and Rich Shaughnessy juggle the various
plot strands until they finally -- if somewhat too tidily -- come together.
Giraldi keeps his camera constantly moving, so the audience feels a part
of the action, from the preparation and cooking of the meal through to its
delivery to the table. The actors all manage to acquit themselves without
embarrassment, with Margolis making the best impression as the
acid-tongued critic. Like a fine meal, Dinner Rush can be enjoyed and
recalled with nostalgia, while remaining visceral and ineffable.
Running time: 98 mins
MPAA Rating: R
|© 2008 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.