Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Spinning Plates

Outstanding documentary about three very different American restaurants engages on many levels, especially because of the intimate focus on the people and families behind these operations and their personal challenges. There’s much more than food and restaurants on this menu.

Oct 24, 2013

-By Doris Toumarkine


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1388338-Spinning_Plates_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

There’s no doubt that filmmaker Joseph Levy is fond of good food and dining out, but it’s his attention to the people behind dining establishments and the access afforded him that make Spinning Plates so worth a big-screen spin and even a second helping. Also gorgeous to behold, the film is a fine fit for theatrical engagements.

Building interest and suspense with expert intercutting, Levy gives us Chicago’s famous high-end Alinea, a palace of molecular gastronomy and its young star chef owner Grant Achatz; Breitbach’s Country Dining in Balltown, Iowa, and owner Mike Breitbach, whose ancestors founded the down-home establishment in 1852 and whose family still runs it; and La Cocina de Gabby, a struggling Mexican restaurant run by immigrants Francisco and Gabby Martinez.

The food at all three places looks lovely. Less lovely have been some of the lives depicted here. As Achatz nervously awaits word about whether Alinea gets the coveted three Michelin stars he wants (also his way of sticking it to rival Charlie Trotter, the venerable Chicago chef who once employed him), he shares the amazing story of his horrific bout with the tongue cancer that nearly killed him and made him the subject of a New Yorker piece. Even Sloan-Kettering had given him a death sentence.

Breitbach, with the help of his large family, runs his impossibly popular and bustling restaurant that also serves as the community center 365 days a year. (Mother’s Day dinners are especially packed.) He shares the tragedies of two recent fires that destroyed the restaurant and the rallying of the people of Balltown and other areas to help in the rebuilding.

Francisco and Gabby, who struggle to get their Cocina off the ground, also struggle with keeping their home. The room that serves as the restaurant looks painfully empty, but they have plenty of love in the kitchen where Gabby cooks with gusto and their beloved three-year-old daughter Ashley runs around. Like the Breitbachs, the Martinezes magnificently convey the importance of family, love and hard work as survival tools of the kitchen trade.

Levy leavens his testimonies from the owners with considerable footage related to the stories they share. Even world-famous chef Thomas Keller takes time on-camera to talk about his trade and his protégé Achatz.

Spinning Plates is rich indeed, but it’s Levy’s human subjects that are at the film’s considerable heart.


Film Review: Spinning Plates

Outstanding documentary about three very different American restaurants engages on many levels, especially because of the intimate focus on the people and families behind these operations and their personal challenges. There’s much more than food and restaurants on this menu.

Oct 24, 2013

-By Doris Toumarkine


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1388338-Spinning_Plates_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

There’s no doubt that filmmaker Joseph Levy is fond of good food and dining out, but it’s his attention to the people behind dining establishments and the access afforded him that make Spinning Plates so worth a big-screen spin and even a second helping. Also gorgeous to behold, the film is a fine fit for theatrical engagements.

Building interest and suspense with expert intercutting, Levy gives us Chicago’s famous high-end Alinea, a palace of molecular gastronomy and its young star chef owner Grant Achatz; Breitbach’s Country Dining in Balltown, Iowa, and owner Mike Breitbach, whose ancestors founded the down-home establishment in 1852 and whose family still runs it; and La Cocina de Gabby, a struggling Mexican restaurant run by immigrants Francisco and Gabby Martinez.

The food at all three places looks lovely. Less lovely have been some of the lives depicted here. As Achatz nervously awaits word about whether Alinea gets the coveted three Michelin stars he wants (also his way of sticking it to rival Charlie Trotter, the venerable Chicago chef who once employed him), he shares the amazing story of his horrific bout with the tongue cancer that nearly killed him and made him the subject of a New Yorker piece. Even Sloan-Kettering had given him a death sentence.

Breitbach, with the help of his large family, runs his impossibly popular and bustling restaurant that also serves as the community center 365 days a year. (Mother’s Day dinners are especially packed.) He shares the tragedies of two recent fires that destroyed the restaurant and the rallying of the people of Balltown and other areas to help in the rebuilding.

Francisco and Gabby, who struggle to get their Cocina off the ground, also struggle with keeping their home. The room that serves as the restaurant looks painfully empty, but they have plenty of love in the kitchen where Gabby cooks with gusto and their beloved three-year-old daughter Ashley runs around. Like the Breitbachs, the Martinezes magnificently convey the importance of family, love and hard work as survival tools of the kitchen trade.

Levy leavens his testimonies from the owners with considerable footage related to the stories they share. Even world-famous chef Thomas Keller takes time on-camera to talk about his trade and his protégé Achatz.

Spinning Plates is rich indeed, but it’s Levy’s human subjects that are at the film’s considerable heart.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Calvary
Film Review: Calvary

An invidious, enervating piece of work blessedly relieved by Brendan Gleeson’s emphatic portrayal of a worldly priest confronting the sins of the world. More »

Rich Hill
Film Review: Rich Hill

This study of teens trying to make it in a very depressed and depressing heartland would have benefited from more hard info and less pictorial meandering. More »

Child of God
Film Review: Child of God

Depravity abounds in this James Franco-directed adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel, which despite a committed performance by Scott Haze proves a one-note endurance test. More »

Cabin Fever: Patient Zero
Film Review: Cabin Fever: Patient Zero

A return to the stripped–down ferocity of Eli Roth's no-frills 2002 shocker, Cabin Fever: Patient Zero (which the title suggests is a prequel, though it doesn't really feel like one) lacks originality but delivers the body-horror goods far better than genre minimalist Ti West's Cabin Fever 2: Spring Break (2009), a broadly campy spin on ’70s high-school horror clichés. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Get On Up
Film Review: Get On Up

Chadwick Boseman is sensational in this multi-faceted portrait of troubled, pioneering soul-music giant James Brown. More »

Guardians of the Galaxy review
Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

With Marvel’s backing, cult filmmaker James Gunn blasts off for the stars and takes audiences along for a wild, funny ride. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here