Reporting Jonathon Sharp
Step Up to the Plate has nothing to do with baseball.
Paul Lacoste’s movie (appropriately titled “Entre les Bras” in French) cuts into the family dynamics of renowned chef Michel Bras as he hands his three-Michelin-star-winning restaurant over to his son, Sebastien.
Michel has retired, but only on paper. His raptor-gaze is ever on his restaurant and his talented but nervous son, whom everyone affectionately calls Seba. Getting to the top is hard, the movie says. But staying at the top is harder. That, in short, is Seba’s problem.
Lacoste quickly introduces you to Bras-style food, which is visually overwhelming in the gentlest way. The first dish you see is a salad, which Michel composes with dashes of dressing and carefully arranged leaves, roots and flowers. It’s as pretty as a painting and seems like it belongs in a museum, not your mouth. Nearly as impressive as the dish is the Bras restaurant, which is perched on a hill in southern France and allows eaters to float above the landscape by means of its circular and windowed design. It looks like a nirvana for foodies, really.
Speaking of landscapes, Lacoste captures some gorgeous, honey-lit ones as his movie follows the restaurant and the family through winter, spring, fall and summer. But his greatest achievement is capturing the tension between Michel and Seba. The emotions of nervousness and self-doubt arrive on their faces as they work and think, both alone and together. In this way, Lacoste gives you the flavor of their emotional state, which is more fulfilling than stale words.
If you aren’t into reading faces, Step Up to the Plate‘s pace might bore you. It isn’t Top Chef so much as a Bras family portrait. But delights do arrive in many forms and places. For instance, when Seba enjoys a countryside snack: toasted French bread topped with fresh butter and chocolate shavings. Seeing the treat being made, eaten is mouthwatering. It’s also a joy to watch as Seba’s confidence grows and he’s able to able impress his perfectionist father with his own pretty and personal dishes. His success at the head of the restaurant, however, remains to be seen.
Step Up to the Plate is playing at the Edina Cinema.