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Boiling Point

Reminding his sous chef to add their “signature” to every dish–a handful of crushed Oreos

Synopsis:  Chef and staff have a rough dinner service.  (Streaming on Amazon as of May 25, 2022)

Boiling Point could’ve been titled ‘Kitchen Burnout.’ There are many teaching moments that a human resources officer could utilize, like: Now, see what’s happening here? You don’t actually want to be getting wasted at work. Or chop fruit where you just shucked oysters.  

At first, I thought the movie would be about some chef a la Gordon Ramsay who gets fed up with his kitchen staff. But, no, it isn’t just the chef who is fed up. All of the staff seems on the verge of doffing their aprons and leaving the food industry forever. Long hours and low pay, what’s not to love?

Boiling Point is an expansion of a short film and comes in at a sleek hour and a half. Using a single-take effect, we follow a chef, Andy, played with panache and heart by Stephen Graham (Peaky BlindersLine of Duty).

Chef is busy, busy and clearly stressed as he racewalks to work while pleading on the phone with his ex to apologize to their son for missing a school sports event. As he ducks into the restaurant, he says he’ll call back later to talk with the boy. Sure…

Staff is gearing up for the night and a health department agent is just finishing his inspection. The exhausted looking Chef seems to be barely registering the agent’s explanation for why the restaurant’s inspection number is falling –mostly due to poor documentation and record-keeping. Chef looks like he wants to punch the guy, but is too tired to take a swing. Between the man taking his leave and Chef walking over to the assembled staff, he goes from crestfallen to angry. He blows up at staff, then admits it’s probably his fault. But, you know, be sure to wash your hands.

Is it true that head chefs don’t actually do most of the cooking, but supervise and taste test instead? Here Chef tosses off advice here and there, but we don’t see any demo of what got him a restaurant of his own with numerous investors. Maybe brandish a whisk or toss some herbs into a soup to convince us. Instead he rushes around sucking on a water bottle. After awhile I started to wonder what was in the bottle because he always seems two steps behind. But I was pleased to see that he makes several aborted attempts to call back his son.

Lost in contemplation, Chef burns yet another dish to a crisp, trying to remember if he has full or partial custody of his son

Tonight’s dinner service promises to be eventful because who the hell forgot to prep the sauces? Head chef Andy, of course. And the front of house manager, Beth (Alice Feetham), has overbooked. She also has a habit of comping the off-menu meals of people who claim to be influencers. Beth, darling, we are all influencers.

The person who seems to do ninety percent of the work is sous chef Carly  (Vinette Robinson) . She is wound tight as can be and always working at top speed. Sometimes she pauses over her stovetop work to rail against Beth. She looks likely to boil over before Chef. And another chef, Freeman (Ray Panthaki), is simmering over Chef’s myriad f**k ups.

Chef does get along well with pastry chef, Emily (Hannah Walters, also the lead actor’s IRL partner) whose creations Chef swoons over. He gobbles up the lemon curd she proffers with gusto. Emily really does work wonders considering that her work space is a 3 x 3 foot stainless steel table wedged into a corner. I hope that the dessert menu includes plenty of gelati because there is no room to make anything other than one tart at a time.

A quick fave of mine was Camille (Izuku Hoyle), the cold kitchen chef, or, as I saw things, the Salad Maker. She looked impressive tossing greens into the air and  dressing the salads with flair. When Chef stops by to give her some (unneeded) instruction, she confides that she doesn’t understand his English. And unless you are from Newcastle, you won’t either. But the actor has an expressive face, so you can see when he pongs around from resignation to mania to anger.

The dining room gets busy with customers and waitstaff dealing with gropers, racists and so on. Chef gets riled up when he learns that celeb chef and former friend Alastair Skye (Jason Flemyng) has been seated with restaurant critic  Sara Southwork (Lourdes Faberes). Alastair and Chef have a rivalry and in between Chef stopping at their table, Alastair tries to persuade the critic that she doesn’t like the food. During one pitstop, Alastair goads Chef that his menu is full of “their” recipes. Critic Sara changes the subject and asks the men how they manage life-work balance. Alastair may have made a bargain with the devil  for celebritychefdom, so he just disregards her when she shares that she misses her daughters when she has extra work obligations. Chef just stares at her, likely remembering that he has a son–you know the one that you named your restaurant Jones & Son after. May as well call your child now, Chef, because the night holds more drama.

One thing missing from Boiling Point is food porn. A movie about a chef really should gift us with lingering shots of creamy desserts, baskets of bread and savory entrees. 

By the end of the movie I was torn between getting takeout– you know, doing one’s part to keep local restaurants afloat or sparing everybody the hassle and making my own sandwich. As head chef of my own kitchen, I have to say the PB&J was topflight.

Movie Loon’s Movie Review Shortcut:

Grade:  C+

Cut to the Chase: In spite of Stephen Graham’s excellent performance, Boiling Point didn’t feel like a full-bodied feature narrative.

Humor Highlight: The brittle and arrogant celeb chef.

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