Dinner Rush


            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.



                                    Rating:            B
                                    Running time:   98 mins
                                    MPAA Rating:    R
© 2008 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.