|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 21 January 2003|
Among the various crises percolating under the restaurant roof this evening: Louis’ son and temperamental head chef Udo (Edoardo Ballerini) is tired of his father criticizing his cooking and wants a say in how the business is run; sous-chef Duncan (Kirk Acevedo) has a gambling habit that is on the verge of becoming hazardous to his health; testy food and art critics are making life hell for the waiters and waitresses; the daughter (Polly Draper) of Louis’ late business partner comes to visit; the two goons who whacked said late partner drop by for dinner and say they’re not leaving until Louis makes them his new partners. Say what you will about the food business –at Louis’ place, it’s not dull.
The screenplay by Rick Shaughnessy & Brian Kalata is a mixed bag, with some genuine twists spiraling through the storyline to hold our attention through the more prosaic developments. Director Bob Giraldi clearly loves the life and movement of the restaurant, getting into the minutiae of both the dining area and the kitchen (if food preparation makes you queasy, be forewarned) in all its hustle and hassle – he convinces us that we’re watching the workings of something that can be seen alternately as a kingdom or a single organism. He gets naturalistic performances from the actors, who are clearly in sync with both the material and each other. Aiello effortlessly embodies a patriarch with a good heart and a head for business, while Ballerini astutely gives us a man who can be a total jerk, a driven visionary or a vulnerable guy with hopes, depending on the circumstances of any given moment.
The film is handsomely photographed by Tim Ives, with warm reds, oranges and golds reinforcing our notions of Italian restaurants that become a dark but not impenetrable blue when the lights go out in Chapter 9. The DVD handles fast transitions of light to dark and back again, with the attendant switching of color schemes, with finesse. Chapter 2 has an odd, jerky camera movement as police swarm around a crime scene, but this appears to be a problem with the original film rather than the transfer.
Sound on the “Dinner Rush” DVD is frankly peculiar in places. Detail on the 5.1 mix is always good in the center and mains, but at various junctures – as early as Chapter 1 – the rears go so dead that you may suspect loose connections between receiver and speakers. The rears do eventually come to life with some background, but they never provide the enveloping ambience one might expect of a film that otherwise wants to place us literally and figuratively in the middle of its environment. There’s also a speech of Aiello’s where the dialogue seems to pop out of dead silence rather than room ambience, but again, this sounds like something that is more likely to be part of the original source material than a flaw of the DVD.
“Dinner Rush” is not engrossing, but it is diverting, a sort of out of the way specialty for people who like food and family sagas served together with a small side of Mob menace.