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Eat Drink Man Mariah

Beginning with a Broadway Danny Roseroundtable chin session and climaxing with a seizure of unlikely but cathartic wiseguy retribution, Bob Giraldi's Dinner Rushstakes out its downtown territory with surgical precision. Set almost entirely inside a busy, upscale Tribeca eatery, the movie is an impressively deft re-creation of a familiar space, complete with industrial decor, hectic kitchen chaos, track-lighting faux pas, and a population of self-obsessed, hyper-sophisticated bullshit artists. Visual naturalism is Amerindie's largest oversight, but Giraldi and cinematographer Tim Ives achieve a budget-defying degree of Altman-style weave-and-smush.

As the film's evening presses on, tension mounts, merely by virtue of the restaurant's everyday attempts to avoid collapsing into mayhem while concocting white-truffle this and lemongrass that. But Giraldi (a 25-year vet of commercials and music videos) and his scriptwriters work in a few strands of melodrama for good measure. The old-school owner, Louis (Danny Aiello)—who cannot tolerate the insubstantial pretensions his ambitious superstar-chef son, Udo (Edoardo Ballerini), puts on the menu—is trying to quit a bookmaking side-business that got his partner killed. The piddling Queens mobsters responsible for the hit (Mike McGlone and Alex Corrado) station themselves at a balcony table, waiting until the lovable sous chef Duncan (Kirk Acevedo) pays off his huge gambling debt or Louis makes them co-owners. Giraldi folds in at least 10 other characters, from a trivia-spouting Brit barkeep to Sandra Bernhard's gargoyle food critic, all so confidently sketched they seem to be in constant motion doing their jobs even when offscreen.

If Dinner Rushfeels minor, it's because it stays in the restaurant (we know almost nothing about life outside), because it dallies too long on the menacing-bookie-enforcer shtick, and because the food preparation itself is somewhat overlooked. (The sequence in which Udo fashions a customized lobster spire for Bernhard's harpy is a joy.) The cast never skips a beat, particularly Mark Margolis as the most obnoxious dinner customer in cinema history and Summer Phoenix as his unfazed waitress. A hit at this year's New Directors, Dinner Rushmay turn out to be a kind of requiem for a food culture hub that, with Tribeca restaurants in danger of closing by the score, now confronts its own ice age.

Food for thought: John Corbett and Marita Miller in Dinner Rush
photo: Access Motion Picture Group
Food for thought: John Corbett and Marita Miller in Dinner Rush

Details

Dinner Rush
Directed by Bob Giraldi
Written by Brian Kalata and Rick Shaughnessy
Access Motion Picture Group
Opens September 28

Glitter
Directed by Vondie Curtis Hall
Written by Kate Lanier and Cheryl L. West
20th Century Fox

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