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Bitter Feast - Dark Sky Films Print E-mail
User Rating: / 3
Written by Ray Casta   
Tuesday, 11 January 2011

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Directed by: Joe Maggio
Written by: Joe Maggio
Produced by: Peter Phok, Derek Curl, Larry Fessenden
Cinematography by: Michael McDonough
Music by: Jeff Grace
Cast: James LeGros, Justin Leanord, Amy Seimetz, Larry Fessenden, Megan Hilty, Mario Batali, Owen Campbell & Tobias Campbell
Year: 2010
Country: USA
Language: English
Color: Color
Runtime: 1 h 35 min

Official Website: Bitter Feast

Opinions are like assholes...  everyone has one.  I am sure everyone has heard that popular saying one time or another.  In this day and age, everyone is a critic.  If there is something you dislike or something you vehemently disagree with, you may feel passionately enough to voice your opinions to whoever will listen.  Some people keep their opinions to themselves if they decide, others make them publicly known.  As a film reviewer, I express my feelings on a film whether I like it, or dislike it.  For a living, people give their opinions.  On occasion, opinions can be very powerful things.  You may lose friends, get into arguments and fights, etc.  "Bitter Feast" is an extreme example about what can occur when an extremely fed up, ticked off lunatic reacts to criticism.  Let's just say, he doesn't take it so well.

Peter Grey (James LeGros) is a dedicated, hardworking chef who runs a cooking show called, The Feast.  He takes pride in his work, and he cooks his dishes with meticulous care.  He considers himself an artist rather than a chef.  Daily, his craft is challenged by the constraints of his TV program.  The producers of the show insist on a partner for him, Meg (Megan Hilty) who annoys him with her snide remarks which serve as comic relief.  He, of course, disagrees with the jokiness of his program.  Peter's boss finds him too pretentious, and tries to convince him that the viewers don't necessarily want to learn something as much as they want to be entertained.  When the network decides to cancel the show, Peter is not happy at all.  Things get decisively worse for him when his opportunity to be the head chef at a restaurant gets shot down from the vicious negative criticism JT Franks (Justin Leanord) writes.

An utterly loathsome, pompous online food critic, Franks is actually a bigger asshole in his home life.  He is particularly intolerable towards his wife, Katherine (Amy Seimetz) who desperately wants another child after their son died of cancer two years ago.  He pushes her away, and he doesn't seem at all concerned about it.  His reviews of pure contempt are his main focus.  When he is kidnapped by the obsessed chef, he is taught a thing or two about the power of criticism.  Both characters play off each other interestingly enough.  They both have difficult home lives and a rough past.  Revealed through flashbacks in the beginning, Peter was tormented by his older brother growing up.  Chased in the woods and ridiculed, he would suffer under his brother's mean games.  Franks had a son who tragically died of cancer, and he is constantly bothered by his wife's need for another.

The movie makes a pretty compelling statement about criticism and the attitude of the people on both ends.  As a target, the artist puts a lot of hard work and preparation into their products.  They mean no harm, other than to do what they love to do -- whether it be filmmaking, painting or writing.  In this respect, the movie does a commendable job and it's fittingly ironic when the "food critic" cannot boil an egg, or make a steak properly.  Regarding the "revenge" however, the movie feels hazy and unfocused.  The fact the chef, pushed to the edge, is unhinged is well taken.  He hatches a diabolical scheme to kidnap the critic who he feel ended his life's work and he attempts to teach him lessons.  These are lessons he feels amount to something important.  Since he is crazy and he wants to harm the man and make him suffer, the "lessons" are kind of pointless in hindsight.

Torture is on the menu here, but it's tame.  The movie aims for more psychological horror than the physical.  I must admit, my sick imagination ran wild during the course of the movie.  I kept imagining the "punch line" to be grotesquely over the top where the chef turns to cannibalism in the end.  I figured it would happen sooner than later, but this is not an exploitation flick that aims to gross out.  It is a story about two flawed and tortured characters who are psychologically tested through their "relationship."  James LeGros does a fantastic job as the crazed chef.  Bulled as a young child, he found a platform to be in charge, and his performance channels all the right emotions of a man at the end of his rope.  It's fun to watch Justin Leanord (from "The Blair Witch Project") play a totally unredeemable asshole.  He irritates his kidnapper by laughing him off at times, and refuses to learn a single consequence from his criticism.  He's a tough nut to crack, serving as a worthy combatant to the sadistic games of his tormentor.

Darkly humorous, Joe Maggio's "Bitter Feast" sadly misses the opportunity to be an effective satirical jab at the culinary world.  It has a chance to go down that route, but it finds the balance between a satire and an outright shock flick.  The most difficult thing about the movie is how there are no clear cut protagonists.  We don't quite connect with either character, as they're both unredeemable.  The movie misses its mark, but it's a fun, entertaining ride nonetheless.


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