Dinner Rush Jan 12, 2021 11:33:28 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Jan 12, 2021 11:33:28 GMT -5
Dinner Rush (2000)
Directed by: Bob Giraldi
Directed by: Bob Giraldi
With the deluge of movies released in any given year — in America alone — it's no surprise some films just slip through the proverbial cracks following their theatrical release, seldom mentioned again. That's what appears to have happened to Bob Giraldi's Dinner Rush. Bless the popular film-site Letterboxd for leading me down a Danny Aiello rabbit-hole to discover this unassuming gem, which saw its widest theater release of 52 theaters on September 28, 2001 — not a particularly hot time for American cinema.
Too bless the invaluable resource that is YouTube for having Dinner Rush available in its entirety for free because it doesn't deserve the fate of obscurity bestowed upon it. Deftly handling both time and space, the film takes place (mostly) in real-time in a classical Italian restaurant one evening where orders mount, creative difference between father-and-son emerge, and two mob-members take a seat and impose a threat. The beautiful part about Dinner Rush is its characters define the plot through their conversations and actions; screenwriters Brian S. Kalata and Rick Shaughnessy paint colorful individuals and let them guide the direction.
The restaurant is Gigi's in New York's Tribeca area. While owned by Louis Cropa (Aiello), it's operated by his son Udo (Edoardo Ballerini), a brilliant chef looking to steer the joint away from traditional Italian dishes in favor of more contemporary cuisine. This dismays dad, who has fond memories of how him and his late wife used to control the menu. Udo fights for a sliver of respect, not just for his work ethic, but his dishes (IE: lobster drenched in sauce with added vanilla and spaghetti as garnish). The father-son conflict between the two is the meatiest entrée in the film. "I worked my entire life to become a chef, and my father wants someone else to cook his food," Udo tells his father at one point. I felt that line on a spiritual level.
Other characters populate the restaurant during a busy dinner rush this evening. We have Duncan (Kirk Acevedo), a young sous-chef caught in the crosshairs of Louis' demand for traditional dishes versus Udo's plea for new culinary creations. Moreover, he's also a degenerate gambler, in debt to both Louis and the mob. There's Sean (Jamie Harris), a fantastic bartender but also an encyclopedia of random trivia. Customers test his knowledge as he whips up killer old fashioneds. Rounding out the employee role-call is Nicole (Vivian Wu), who takes reservations and tries to handle dating both Duncan and Udo behind one another's backs.
We also meet some of the customers throughout our time at Gigi's. There's the pretentious art critic (Mark Margolis), predictably accompanied by an easily enamored posse of folks who chew on every word he speaks, a Wall Street stock trader (John Corbett) conservatively sipping an evening cocktail whilst people-watching, and Carmen (Mike McGlone), a mobster who tries to weasel a partnership out of Louis in effort to collect on unpaid debts.
At times, Dinner Rush is a case of ambiance over substance. I can't quite put my finger on what didn't work; maybe too many lofty themes sacrificed for culinary appreciation — which isn't all burdensome, mind you. In addition to being a successful advertising/marketing mogul, Giraldi has owned multiple restaurants throughout his illustrious career, so his focus on the dishes prepared at Gigi's is to be expected. What keeps Dinner Rush from trailing too far down the road of being a delicious post-card is the exuberant cast, whose misgivings and shortcomings crowd the picture with sequences you find yourself roped into with ease. There's a pervasive casualness to the pace that allows the tension to build subtly. Anchored by Aiello, who always finds ways to be unabashedly authentic with nearly every role, it's a joy to be dropped in this lavish setting for an extended period of time.
However, I must incite beef with one character who, late in the film, has a fairly seismic hot take following the film's climax: "only in New York can you count on a double-murder to triple your business." Honey, come to Chicago. I've seen eateries with wooden boards in place of windows have lines out the door following deadly shootings on the evening newscast.
NOTE: As stated, Dinner Rush is available to view on YouTube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDOkCE1S5B4
Starring: Danny Aiello, Edoardo Ballerini, Kirk Acevedo, Vivian Wu, Mike McGlone, Mark Margolis, and John Corbett. Directed by: Bob Giraldi.