It sounds like an extra act to Ratatouille: A disgraced celebrity chef (James LeGros) kidnaps a food blogger (Joshua Leonard) who slammed him, forcing a regimen of torture and cooking lessons upon his quarry. In writer-director Joe Maggio’s delightfully nasty Bitter Feast, there are no heroes—only levels of villainy, with two outsize egos bruised in different ways. Once the premise is launched, the film settles down to a simple series of mind-game one-on-ones between the chef and the blogger, each struggling to hold on to the safety of his carefully cultivated persona.
Zesty fun for its actors, Feast is at once a sly parody of the celebrity-chef culture spawned by all the cable cooking shows and competitions, and a creepy little chamber-piece. Even Maggio’s point of view on blogging captures something unique: Leonard’s character likens himself to the former pro-wrestling superstar Iron Sheik, applying an unlikely but apt analogy to online provocation.
The film’s wonderfully wicked sensibility should come as no surprise to fans who notice the involvement of Larry Fessenden as producer (and in a small role as a sleazy private detective). Fessenden has become more influential and important as a producer and general facilitator of low-budget horror (not to mention art-auteur Kelly Reichardt’s Wendy and Lucy) than for the films he directs. If Bitter Feast is any indication, Joe Maggio is a name that can be placed alongside Fessenden protégé Ti West as one to watch.