Sunday, April 21, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Chef Flynn (2018) - A Kino Lorber DVD Review

Over the past couple of years I've seen a number of interesting documentaries thanks to Kino Lorber, including OBIT: LIFE ON DEADLINE (2016), HAROLD AND LILLIAN: A HOLLYWOOD LOVE STORY (2015), DAWSON CITY: FROZEN TIME (2016), and BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY (2017).

Kino Lorber has another winner in CHEF FLYNN (2018), the absorbing story of Flynn McGarry, a self-taught child prodigy who became a fine dining chef.

Flynn's mother Meg is a filmmaker, and consequently copious footage exists of Flynn cooking from a young age; his passion for cooking was such that he created an elaborate kitchen in his bedroom, where he could experiment with his creations in private. I wondered if his parents ever worried about fires or knife accidents; right around the time that crossed my mind, there was a scene where he's had a run-in with his knife!

Fancy meals served to family and friends at home in Los Angeles eventually turned into charging strangers for meals in order to help cover the costs of ingredients; now 20, he has a restaurant in New York.

I was fascinated by his early ability to cook at such a high level of artistry; he began cooking after his parents split up, and he theorizes perhaps it was a way to help and also a way to take control of something when he couldn't control the bigger picture. (The father later re-entered the family after getting help for alcoholism.) There are glimpses of some of the cookbooks on his shelves, but something missing I'd like to have known more about was exactly how he began; for instance, what sorts of dishes was he making initially, and how did things progress from there? Based on his youth in some of the footage, his abilities obviously escalated quickly!

His excitement when he has the chance to cook and learn in the kitchen of a New York restaurant is moving. Along with many positive experiences, he also learns about the pitfalls of social media; for instance, there are those who would discount his hard work and achievements because of "privilege," a word of which I am heartily tired; yes, his parents could afford to buy him kitchen equipment, but so what? He chose to work hard and make the most of his opportunities.

Others have questioned whether he can be a "real" chef without years of training in restaurant kitchens. I found brief excerpts from a speech he gave asking why working in the restaurant business must be done the way it's always been done of particular interest.

A documentary by its nature is slanted, both by what it includes and what it leaves out, and the picture of Flynn's mother is a bit curious; while I admired her willingness to help her son achieve his goals, at some points she seems to move beyond proud and supportive parent to controlling stage mother. There are moments when the viewer wishes she had honored her son's desire to turn off her camera, and a scene where she confronts diners about service on the opening night of a pop-up restaurant in New York is painfully awkward.

It's a given that parenting young children is consuming, but I was starting to wonder what in her life belonged specifically to her when that point was raised in an interview. By the end of the film Flynn is off on his own in New York, achieving his dream of his own restaurant, and Meg is beginning a more independent life in Los Angeles, so it seems as though all's well that ends well.

Those who enjoy "foodie" documentaries, as I do, should find this an interesting watch.

CHEF FLYNN runs a well-paced 82 minutes. It was directed by Cameron Yates and filmed by Paul Yee.

Extras on the Kino Lorber DVD include the trailer, deleted scenes, a speech by Flynn, and a KCRW Public Radio segment. The case includes reversible cover artwork.

A trailer is on YouTube.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this DVD.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older