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The Films Of The LA Film Fest: 'Bitter Feast'

Holly Butcher, Piya Sinha-Roy |
June 21, 2010 | 3:41 p.m. PDT

Senior Music Editor and Entertainment Editor

"Bitter Feast" is a revenge thriller with two anti-heroes
(Photo: LAFF/Image.net)
'Bitter Feast' 

(USA, 2010, 113 mins)

Steak and eggs will never look the same, thanks to "Bitter Feast," a movie that shows revenge is best served in a frying pan.
"Feast," written and directed by Joe Maggio, has two (anti)-heroes suffering from the lifetime ailment of bitterness. On one hand there's Peter Gray (James LeGros), the abrasive star of a cooking show entitled "The Feast with Peter Gray," who chastises everyone from his co-host to producer; and on the other there's JT Franks (Joshua Leonard), a disparaging food blogger who has nothing nice to say about anyone including his wife. 
So it's no shocker that JT writes several scathing reviews of Peter, who also works as a chef at a New York restaurant. Unfortunately, for Peter, people listen to JT, including his boss and the TV network airing "The Feast." After the latest lashing, Peter loses his job and the show is cancelled. He craves the taste of revenge... 
This is when the audience should feel sympathy for what's coming to JT. But the blogger is - to put politely - a jerk, which makes empathy nearly impossible. (He told his wife that it did not matter to him whether she stayed or left him for good. He just did not care.) 
Although none of the characters has any redeeming quality, it makes for a great watch. Maggio uses playful, sarcastic dialogue and the actors master the art of wit perfectly. It's hilarious, but then towards the end, frightfully gripping as the thriller portion of the movie heats up.
Some of the backstory, however, tries too hard at poetic justice. It would have been a stronger movie if Maggio focused on the present day and not what made Peter and JT into the embittered pricks they grew up to be. The charm of "Bitter Feast" is that even if you hate the heroes, you can't peel your eyes from the screen as the action unfolds. 
But, one of the few questions is, why, if you are being chased by a psycho killer, would you scream out as you hide in the grass? Psychos can hear too.
Anyway, Bitter Feast is a go-see, but make sure you haven't eaten beforehand.

Verdict: Rent it at a cabin in the wilderness
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
-- Holly Butcher

Joe Maggio's culinary thriller, 'Bitter Feast', certainly serves up a treat. The film revolves around a chef, Peter Gray, and a food critic, JT Franks, both played superbly by James LeGros and Joshua Leonard, and tells a chilling tale of revenge against the written word.

In an age where bloggers are gaining momentum and power through establishing large audiences via the internet, JT Franks had cemented his reputation as being a notoriously scathing food critic, reveling in witty condemnations of sub-par food. But what starts as a blog, becomes Franks' very core character, and the bitterness from the death of his son is manifested into a caricature that he adopts. Gray on the other hand, is a chef who has already peaked, and doesn't want to cater to the changing environment around him. When Franks' critique slams Gray's restaurant, Gray decides to exact some revenge, of the gourmet kind.

The film's two leads are both anti-heroes, but in the case of Franks, there seems to be a sympathetic backstory that lends to the "why" of his bitterness. For Gray, his condition is perhaps more psychopathic, and thus the audience is likely to root for Franks.

Despite being a formulaic thriller, Maggio does convey how an abuse of power doesn't only happen within the political world, and that in today's blogosphere, more Average Joes are becoming increasingly influential. Gray's talent and success as a chef is brought into question purely through the words of one man with 40,000 hits on his site, enough to bring him down. But for the Simon Cowells of the world, take this film as a word of warning that words might indeed hurt some feelings - and who knew revenge could taste so good?!

Verdict: Rent it, unless you like clutching movie theater chairs
Rating: 3/5 stars
-- Piya Sinha-Roy



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