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The Best Movies Set In Restaurants
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Like many people, I am facing “uncertain business headwinds” and “once-in-a-generation economic forces” which have caused me to become how you say… underemployed. This brings me to two things.
1. I have seen “once-in-a-generation” economic forces about 5 times in my working life now. We gotta stop using that phrase because what it really means is “We gotta pay our C-Suite guys their bonuses, sorry.” We have nothing to lose but our chains, comrades. Rise up.
2. If you are a subscriber/reader of this newsletter and you enjoy my writing and your job is hiring for copywriting, blogging, or quite literally any job where I can work remotely, you should bang my line. I’m smart, can figure out any task pretty quickly, and the streets are saying that this guy works well with both internal and external shareholders. On top of that, I’m a great hang. I’ll be the guy that gets the office fantasy football league going. I’ll also be the guy that ignores your Slack message if you beat me in said league. It’s a give-and-take.
As a direct result of all of the above, I have done something I haven’t done since; I’ve picked up a job in a restaurant as a barista/server. Entering this part of the workforce again has been interesting. There are parts that are good (my co-workers are cool. Free coffee and pastries. I don’t take my work home with me) and there are parts that are bad (every single customer I have to interact with at any time, opening early).
This got me thinking about how some of my favorite movies are set in restaurants. Some of them do a better job of representing the realities of the service industry, some glamourize a pretty mundane job, and some do neither. They simply just take place inside a restaurant.
This edition of Working Title is all about the marriage of movies and restaurants.
Where To Watch: Disney+
The king of restaurant movies (IMO) and maybe my favorite Pixar movie (more on that in an upcoming newsletter.) I love the rendering of Paris in this movie so much and Gusteau's restaurant is one fake restaurant that I have wanted to eat at since I saw it. Plus, Anton Ego (the food critic) is such a fun villain. Patton Oswalt is good as Remy and this is primetime Pixar. A movie about how dreams are attainable and, of course, how anyone can cook. An absolute banger.
Title: Glengarry Glenn Ross
Where To Watch: Peacock, Amazon Prime, Hulu
"Nice guy? I don't give a shit. Good father? Fuck you, go home and play with your kids."
This might seem like cheating, but I don’t think it is because at least half (if not more) of this movie takes place in a Chinese restaurant that the characters in this movie have set up as basically a second office.
I remember my friend Pat handing this movie to me for the first time during our senior year of high school and feeling my brain chemistry change as I watched it.
When I was younger, I got caught up in the dialogue and Jack Lemon's voice and all the "fuck you's." One thing that really struck me on rewatch as a slightly older person is how much of a loser all these guys are. What is their job besides just scamming old people out of their money for properties that aren't worth shit? They'll sell out anybody around them to scratch out a pittance of a living.
Al Pacino is constantly throwing 100 MPH in this and despite what it has become, Alec Baldwin’s speech as Blake is just as thrilling and funny as the first time you see it. 8 minutes of pure heat. One of my favorite movies of all time, sorry to be a white guy about it.
Title: My Dinner With Andre
Where To Watch: MAX
Another movie that is simply “guys talking in a room” and that room just so happens to be a restaurant. This movie is on a lot of “best of all-time” lists so it’s not an original pick, but it rocks and you should seek it out if you haven’t seen it yet.
This movie lacks what I would call a traditional plot because it’s two guys talking; one about his travels and how they’ve changed his worldviews and another (Andre) dealing with the ramifications of that. It’s so expertly acted and paced that it feels like stumbling upon a conversation among friends that just so happened to be taped. It is incredibly gripping and the conversation drives you along the entire time.
Title: Boiling Point
Where To Watch: Amazon Prime
Hot damn, this movie rips. It’s a super simple setup. Stephen Graham (who whips nuts, by the way, one of the best actors out there) is a chef in one of London’s most popular restaurants and we follow along with him during the busiest days of the year. That’s it.
This is one of the most stressful movies I have ever seen. Do you remember that episode of THE BEAR from last year that everybody was talking about? It’s that but instead of 22 minutes, it’s 90 minutes. That 90 minutes is shot in one long take with no breaks. It’s a movie that doesn’t let you breathe, but it’s all the better for it. I exhaled. for the first time when the credits rolled. I’ve watched it a couple of times since and it still rips. A very big “hell yeah, player” from me, fire this one up.
Where To Watch: MAX
This movie is such an easy and enjoyable watch. Maybe the perfect chaser after BOILING POINT. While the majority takes place in a food truck, I think this easily counts.
John Favreau plays a chef who is fired from his job at a prestigious LA restaurant and decides to open a food truck and travel with his son to recapture his love of cooking and ultimately, life. I know that sounds like a schmaltzy Hallmark movie description, but the movie is quite funny and well-paced. I’m also a person who just likes John Favreau so hanging out with him for a couple hours is something I’m into.
This is also a great food movie. It all looks amazing.
Title: Jiro Dreams Of Sushi
Where To Watch: YouTube, Amazon Prime
A documentary about not only the pursuit of perception but the pressures of legacy. JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI is one of my favorite documentaries of all time. The film follows Jiro Ono, who is considered to be the best sushi chef of all time, as he describes his methods and philosophy behind sushi and his 10-seat restaurant inside a Tokyo subway. It also follows his two sons, including his oldest who will one day take over the restaurant and who worries about what that means for both his and his father’s legacy.
It’s an extremely elegant and well-told film that received a lot of recognition when released and is well worth a revisit.
Title: The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie
Where To Watch: Amazon Prime
I’ve mentioned this before in this newsletter, but I like a movie that makes me feel stupid sometimes. This movie certainly fits that bill. The setup isn’t hard to understand at all. Some upper-class dignitary types are trying to get together for dinner, but a series of absurd occurrences keep them from actually having said dinner.
It’s a simple premise, but the movie is anything but. It’s directed by Luis Buñuel, who is considered by many to be one of the best surrealist filmmakers of all time. This movie is one of his best.
I won’t sit here and pretend I can explain to you what this movie is about, but I can tell you that it is very funny. Even when I don’t get necessarily get the joke, it FEELS funny, you know what I mean? A lot of what happens in the movie contradicts itself and it’s kinda clear by the end of the movie that this whole thing has been a trick on you as you try to figure it out. Me personally? I like that sort of thing. Your mileage may vary, but if you want to give it a go, I highly recommend it.
The Menu (available on MAX) - I was a bit down on this movie when it first came out, but I’ve rewatched it a couple of times and I’ve come around a little bit more. I still think it’s not as smart as it thinks it is, but it’s funny and the “student loans” exchange is one of my favorite pieces of dialogue in a while. Hong Chau rips and I really like Nicolaus Hoult’s performance a lot.
Waiting… (available on Peacock) - There is nothing honorable about this mention. I cannot in good conscience recommend it to you. This movie is from 2005 and has aged about as well as a glass of milk left in the sun for 18 years and then somebody shit in the glass. It is terribly problematic, homophobic, and very much an artifact of its time. I’m putting it here because I still haven’t seen a better on-screen representation of what it’s like to be a waiter and to deal with customers who suck. They nailed it. Also, Justin Long is in it and I love Justin Long. IDK, if you can stomach it, it’s got some funny moments but you will want to maybe take a shower after.
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