Clicking and Streaming: A families-are-terrible-themed holiday edition featuring 'Restaurant: Impossible,' 'In a World,' and 'I Am Love'
By BRANDON SODERBERG
Nov 28, 2014 | 5:31 PM
In this installment of "Clicking and Streaming," we have a few recommendations that all circle around the meaty theme of "families are incredibly, depressingly toxic," which is just perfect for the holiday season. Ideally, you'll find something cathartic in one of these after enduring a presumably endless, obnoxious Thanksgiving with the fam.
Hosted by Robert Irvine
Now streaming on Netflix
Hosted by "fearless chef and top restaurauteur" Robert Irvine (who is kind of like if Daniel Craig and MC Serch had a baby and then they taught it to do a shitty Gordon Ramsay impression), The Food Network's "Restaurant: Impossible" finds this British bully going into failing mom-and-pop restaurants across the United States and telling them what they're doing wrong and then helping them "fix" it in just three days and with 10 grand. Poor management, familial codependence, and a kind of mind-boggling middle-class complacency are to blame for the fucked-up-ness of most of these places, like, say, Bronk's Bar and Grill, a sub-Ruby Tuesday's clusterfuck run by a married couple who clearly hate each other, or Kalico Kitchen, an abusive grandmother's old-fashioned, cracker-food buffet.
Occasionally though, a restaurant is impossible for an even more heavy-hearted problem. So, in one episode you've got Anna Marie's, an Italian spot in some shithole part of Pennsylvania currently being wrecked by an old-ass lady and her dweeb of a son who never had any intentions of running Anna Marie's but now they gotta because pops, who opened the place, is dying of throat cancer for chrissakes and it's both very touching and really infuriating (moms refuses to change the all-mauve interior, in part because she is an idiot but presumably also because it reminds her of a time when her husband wasn't dying of throat cancer!). In the end, Irvine turns the restaurant into a slightly swankier place that no longer looks like a set from "The Love Boat" but a basic-ass Italian restaurant with some Target-ish flair. That's swell and all, but also something is lost for good and it's hard not to think that maybe moms and soon-to-be-dead pops might've been better off just cluelessly continuing to sink their business for a few more years rather than turning it into something that will still inevitably fail a few more years down the line anyways because, see, the thing hiding behind every episode of "Restraurant: Impossible" is this: The show is happening in the 2010s in a country in decline, the United States of America, where any kind of mom and pop is being intentionally crushed by corporate chains and the economy is designed to screw overextended people like this over.
The "best" part of the show is when Irvine tells these owners the problem with their restaurant because he is really just confronting them with a severe personality flaw that extends way beyond their business and cuts to the core of their very being and right there and then "Restaurant: Impossible" becomes a sick testimony to how deep people's denial goes, making every episode rich with pitch-black comedy and a lived-in, lives-of-quiet-desperation kind of sadness that isn't easy to shake. For sick fucks only. (Brandon Soderberg)
Written, directed by, and starring Lake Bell, "In A World" follows voiceover artist Carol Solomon's clashes with misogyny in the world of voiceover artists. Currently dominating the prime real estate of the industry of movie-trailer voiceovers are Solomon's father, Sam Sotto (Fred Melamed), and his protege, Gustav Warner (Ken Marino). A lucky break for Carol, and a sore throat for Warner, leads to her booking a series of increasingly high-profile voiceover jobs, accidentally becoming one of the most high-profile women in the industry. This success lands in her in the running for a job that will revive infamous movie-trailer catchphrase, "In a world . . ." Sotto and Warner, as self-apportioned lords of the voiceover fifedom preening fatly around a pool, have already decided this honor was destined for Warner and the presence of a new and, worse again, female and, worst of all, family competitor, sends the established order into chaos.
Set against this backdrop of a voiceover quest for glory are numerous sub-plots, all subtly or directly illustrating the rampaging damage done by toxic masculinity, and just enough scenes of the actual voiceover world to underline both the absurdity of the industry and how little that absurdity diminishes the importance of Carol Solomon's efforts to redress the balance. Bell's sharp writing is enhanced by her performance; she adds her own contemplative melancholy to Albert Brooks-ian reactive timing. And "In A World" commands a surprising brutality. Though Ken Marino inexplicably paints dead-eyed, fuck-man Gustav with Brendan-Fraser-PG-comedy brushstrokes, real-life voiceover star Fred Melamed plays Sam Sotto like a knife in his own back, namedropping Philip Roth, unwittingly encouraging his disciple to fuck his daughter for him, and weeping bodily when he doesn't get his way. Satirizing the damage male entitlement can inflict on a creative community feels unusually timely as militantly misogynist video-game fans run women out of their homes and jobs with death threats for daring to intrude in their domain. "In A World" illustrates this from many angles, with both force and nuance. (Sean McTiernan)
"I Am Love"
Directed by Luca Guadagnino
Now streaming on Netflix
This bitter, decadent film begins with a series of familial disappointments. Edoardo Rechhi Sr. (Gabriele Ferzetti), the aging and ailing paterfamilias of a Milanese textile empire, has gathered his family together to announce his plan to retire and leave the family business in the control of his son Tancredi (Pippo Delbono) and his grandson Edo (Flavio Parenti), to the latter's chagrin. Earlier that day, Edo broke the Recchi family's unblemished athletic record by losing a regatta to a chef named Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini). Not to be outdone, Tancredi's daughter Elisabetta (Alba Rohrwacher) somewhat artlessly reveals her intention to pursue photography in lieu of painting when she gives her grandfather a framed photograph, taken at a location they had visited together, instead of the drawing that he was expecting. But these relatively small personal shortcomings are mere prelude. "I Am Love" is ultimately a movie about the tension between the imposing will of tradition and expectation and the allure of freedom; between the oppressive control of patriarchy and the glorious anarchy of unbridled creativity and sexuality. When Edo's mother Emma (Tilda Swinton) dines at Antonio's restaurant, it sets off a passionate series of events that will lead inexorably to the unraveling of the Recchi family.
"I Am Love" is an almost embarrassingly well-made movie. Yorick Le Saux's gorgeous cinematography, director Guadagnino's virtuosically choreographed set pieces, and the high emotional drama set to John Adams' magisterial score link "I Am Love" as much with opera as with the unstintingly classical cinematic tradition ("The Leopard," "Vertigo," "Rules of the Game") to which it so shamelessly pays homage. And like the great Italian operas, the movie remains stubbornly ambivalent about the emotional torrent it unfolds. Late in the movie, as Elisabetta talks to Edo about the woman for whom she left her longtime boyfriend, her brother asks, "Are you happy?" to which she responds, "Happy? Happy is a word that makes one sad." (David Ford)