Chris, who grew up in a racially mixed, low-income Newark neighborhood (this is an insider's New Jersey film), knows that his guilt over his father's bigotry has something to do with his choice of girlfriends, but he's too angry and neurotic to understand what's going on inside him. The film tries to explore the complexity of white racism, but it falls into a whites über alles trap when Chris's ex returns to tell him that she'll never love her black fiancé as much as she loves him. Why not one but two stunning black women should fall for this angry young white man is a mystery that the film fails to engage. Despite this contradiction, Restaurantraises provocative issues, particularly for white audiences, and it's sad that it has the gatekeepers for that audience—festival programmers and indie distributors—running scared.

Hooking up: MacDonald and Matheson in Stella
Hooking up: MacDonald and Matheson in Stella

Details

Stella Does Tricks
Directed by Coky Giedroyc
Written by Alison Kennedy
A Strand release
At the Screening Room
January 28 through February 3

The Big Tease
Directed by Kevin Allen
Written by Sacha Gervasi and Craig Ferguson
A Warner Bros. release
Opens January 28

Restaurant
Directed by Eric Bross
Written by Tom Cudworth
A Palisades Pictures release
Opens January 28

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Director Eric Bross has a smooth nonstyle that serves him well until the screenplay turns melodramatic at the end. Attempting to ratchet up tension, Bross relies on forced crosscutting and stagey clichés. The ensemble cast is pleasant enough, and Brody performs with his usual intensity, even when Bross and screenwriter Tom Cudworth lose track of the fact that this is a film about relationships, and not one white boy's show.

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