You don't want to know what's in Judge Patrick Bromley's kitchen.
Life begins in la cucina.
Movies like the 2007 indie drama La Cucina are difficult to pull off. Claustrophobic and constrained by budget, the film is essentially a talkfest confined to two or three small indoor settings—in this case, apartment kitchens—in which various pairings of characters discuss life and love and food. On one hand, it's easy for a movie like this to live up to its modest ambitions; on the other, it really has to be strong in the dialogue and acting departments to hold our attention (think Two Girls and a Guy). While La Cucina gets some support from an appealing cast, it never stops being flat and trite long enough to transcend its limitations. I've seen many worse movies, but countless others that are better.
Christina Hendricks of Mad Men stars as Lily, a younger woman in the early stages of a relationship with an older man (played nicely by Joaquim "What is the number to the phone in my car?" de Almeida of Desperado). As the two prepare a dinner together in Lily's apartment (salad; she's not much of a cook), they talk and talk about what each wants from the relationship and how they approach love and life as it relates to their ages and experience. Elsewhere in the apartment complex, Lily's pregnant friend Shelly (Leisha Hailey, The L Word and one half of The Murmurs) steals away to tenant Jude's (model Rachel Hunter) apartment after a fight with her husband, then slowly confesses to having cheated on him while Jude cooks away in the kitchen. In a third and mostly ignored subplot, Jude's actress girlfriend Raven (Kala Savage, Dead Write) sleeps with a costar.
It's difficult to dislike La Cucina—it's modest and sincere and never lapses into whining or pretentiousness—but the film doesn't offer much to admire, either. For as much conversation as there is about love and commitment and relationships, there's very little actual insight; the observations rarely rise above those of a teenager. These aren't characters who have actually experienced life (save, perhaps, for de Almeida, who at least convinces us he's had a life prior to this evening), but have only heard and read about life in other, better movies and books. Independent filmmakers are at an advantage when they tackle an all-dialogue screenplay, but they've also got to make sure that dialogue is engaging and smart. I'm sorry to say that La Cucina doesn't pull that off. The flat direction from Allison Hebble and Zed Starkovich doesn't help matters; confined to single kitchen sets, the whole film feels stiff and stagey. Add in the uneven, obtrusive editing (sometimes, dialogue-heavy scenes should play out in longer masters to give us the feel of uninterrupted conversation; La Cucina breaks nearly every line down into its own cut and the camera placement has a tendency to be unintentionally disorienting) and you've got a film that feels every bit like the low-budget first effort that it is.
The copy of La Cucina I received from Anthem Pictures was an unfinished screener, meaning I cannot comment on the quality of the video, audio or bonus features.
Guilty of being uninspired.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anthem Pictures
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