A scene from "Step Up to the Plate." (Handout )
By its description — a renowned French chef readies to hand off his three-Michelin-star restaurant to his talented son — one might reasonably expect the documentary "Step Up to the Plate" to be a mouth-watering look at haute cuisine preparation and high-end eatery management. Instead, writer-director Paul Lacoste offers a cerebral, dirge-paced outline of a father-son dynamic that asks the audience to fill in too many narrative and emotional gaps.
Michel Bras, the longtime owner of the eponymous restaurant in Southern France's scenic Aubrac region, and his son Sébastien, to whom the influential chef is turning over his stunningly beautiful establishment, are subtle perfectionists with a quietly competitive spirit. But between the pair's low-key personalities and Lacoste's elliptical approach, we're left with mere glimpses into the profound transition at hand.
Only the movie's poignant closing shot truly captures the situation's life-cycling resonance.
This seasonally chaptered film is also light on such "menu items" as the elder Bras' career path, why he achieved such rare success, his culinary specialties and so on. A side trip to visit Bras' Toya, Japan, branch enlivens things a bit.
As for the so-called "food compositions" seen here, like the film itself, they're more impressionistic and artistic than enticing. For a far more satisfying cinematic meal, check out the similarly themed "Jiro Dreams of Sushi."
"Step Up to the Plate." No MPAA rating; in French with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. At Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills; Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena; Laemmle's Town Center 5, Encino.