Review of STEP UP TO THE PLATE

Another food Documentary about a famously renown chef who is preparing his son to take over the family restaurant when he retires (JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI).  This time it’s a French chef named Michel Bras, and his son is Sebastian.  The movie focuses most of the film’s time showing how articulate Michel is when he prepares food, making his dishes look like works of art.  Sebastian is just as a perfectionist, but must deal with his father looking over his shoulder (sometimes literally) the entire time.  This puts much pressure on Sebastian, but still, he keeps his cool.  It’s not that Michel doesn’t trust his son.  You can tell that he is very proud, but he just loves to make food so much that I got a feeling he just didn’t want to retire, so he hangs around Sebastian to tell him “what he’s doing wrong”.  My favorite moment is when Sebastian prepares his father a rice cake of his own creation and Michel refuses to eat it the way it was intended.  The minor and brief arguments reveal everything about their relationship.

While I found most of their interaction fascinating, I thought that the movie didn’t have enough material to sustain a feature film.  When Michel or Sebastian aren’t preparing food, they’re looking at the sunrise or going for a morning jog.  This does allow for some beautiful shots, but it became a little cerebral for a documentary, especially in the final half hour.  It was like they ran out of restaurant footage as most of the last third features the two subjects looking at the sky and running.  What was I watching, a Terrence Malick film?  Not that there’s anything wrong with Malick,  but I thought it didn’t really fit with the rest of the Documentary footage.  A little would have been fine (as they did a bit of this in the first half),  but this approach dominates the final 30 minutes.

If you’re into fine eating and frequent the Food Network channel, you’ll probably get more out of it than I.  I could really care less about fancy food since my meals usually consist of a plate of meatballs with melted cheese on them, but I did think the dishes looked pretty.  There are some interesting father/son dynamic moments in the film that give it some merit.  But I thought JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI, which was released earlier this year, was much more focused and pretty much the same story.  STEP UP TO THE PLATE isn’t a total bust, but it could’ve been more engaging if it didn’t lose it’s way at the end.  ★★½ (out of ★★★★)

Not rated: Contains nothing objectionable.

In French with English subtitles. 

Running time: 1hr 30min.

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Categories: Austin Kennedy, Reviews

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