There seems to be an entirely new sub-category in the documentary film world--the foodie movie. Tales of chefs, cooking, and competitions have been proliferating in recent years--so if you have culinary interests, they are easy to satisfy with numerous non-fiction endeavors. Roger Sherman's brief film "The Restaurateur" tackles a largely ignored, but vital, component of the industry. Showcasing the business aspects of opening and running successful eateries, the film stars Danny Meyer who is a bigwig in the upscale New York restaurant world. In 1998, Meyer and his financial group attempted to open two high profile restaurants at adjacent locations in a fashionable area of New York City, and this film chronicles the successes and tribulations inherent in this process.
In truth, the focus of the movie is somewhat limited and it may not appeal to everyone. Having been involved in several business openings myself, seeing an empty space transform into a viable and thriving restaurant is inherently interesting. If, however, the idea of the movie does not grab your attention--then, honestly, nothing presented in this straightforward documentary is likely to change your mind. There isn't gobs of drama and/or human interest--this is a film of process. We meet the chefs, Meyer's partners, and other key members of the teams but, aside from Meyer, the chefs are the only people we get to know in the slightest. And they're probably the film's most intriguing aspect. Interesting side note, you see Top Chef's Tom Colicchio circa 1998 (he was the chef at one of Meyer's other eateries)--so if you want to check out the big guy while he had some hair, pick this up (although he plays a very minor role in the film).
The hour long film is supplemented with roughly thirty minutes of epilogue features that inform us about the current state of affairs. Two of these four segments provide necessary closure and genuine emotion while two are fairly insufferable--if you watch, it's easy to decipher which is which! If nothing else, "The Restaurateur" discusses the industry from a less conventional vantage point. Interesting, if not revelatory, the film will best be appreciated if you like business or are an aspiring entrepreneur. Your involvement in the film will be directly proportional to your interest in the subject matter. KGHarris, 3/11.