A famous chef closing in on retirement begrudgingly hands the reigns of his restaurant to his son, but the meticulous chef is reluctant to let go. No, this isn’t Jiro Dreams of Sushi, but the French director Paul Lacoste’s Step Up to the Plate, a cheesy, all too basebally title that does a disservice to the film whose original title is the more meaningful Entre les Bras. Of course, “Between the Bras” would give people a false impression of what the film is really about as well.
The similarities to last years Jiro are striking, and Step Up to the Plate is an interesting companion piece. Unlike Jiro’s humble sushi shop, the eponymous Bras restaurant is a spectacular building over-looking the lush Laguiole, France, which makes Step Up a more visually stunning film. The tension between father and son is similar, although the tension between the elder Michel Bras and Sébastian is more palpable. Michel comes across as unnecessarily critical, creating sympathy for what one could assume to be the long suffering son.
Like Jiro, Step Up subtly explores deeper questions about the choices people make for their careers. Michel also owns a restaurant in Kyoto, and Sébastian explicitly brings up the difference between how Asian and Western families approach handing down a business to successive generations. Both films also raise the question of how chefs devoted to their work face retirement.
Although Jiro was slow-paced and meditative, Step Up is more so. Lingering shots of scenic beauty punctuate the transition between the four seasons that structure the film. Because Step Up takes this chronological approach to the story, a cohesive narrative arc is lacking, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it challenges the viewer to speculate on what passes as resolution.
Like Jiro, Step Up is lovingly photographed. The early shot of the assembly of the gargouillou is food porn at its most gratuitous.
Using the festival’s scoring system, I rank Step Up as Very Good or 4 out of a possible 5.
Check out all my 2012 Philadelphia Film Festival Posts!