In this “Misery” meets “MasterChef”, James LeGros is TV chef Peter Grey, an irritatingly pretentious, uber-perfectionist whose already modest career is on the slide. Grey seems to attribute most of his misfortune to the scathing reviews of food blogger J.T. Franks, a snarky jerk with a nagging wife (Amy Seimetz) he treats poorly (verbally) and a dead daughter they haven’t properly grieved for. Grey, at his lowest, decides to kidnap J.T. Franks, hold him out in the isolated woods and teach him a lesson via food challenges. He needs to cook the perfect steak, for instance, or eggs over easy. However, if he delivers anything less than absolute perfection, he is punished. He is also not allowed to eat unless he cooks to expectation. Unfortunately, Franks doesn’t appear to want to participate, as he’s starting to have an emotional breakdown.
You’d think the critic vs. artist relationship would be perfect for a horror movie or black comedy. And you’d be right, “Theatre of Blood” was a terrific film. Unfortunately, I’m not talking about that film today. Instead I’m talking about this 2009 film from writer-director Joe Maggio, and it doesn’t quite come off. The premise plays out way too early, and LeGros actually doesn’t play fair. He forces Leonard to cook a perfect meal but it’s under strained circumstances that aren’t fair. Surely state of mind would affect the outcome of the dish somewhat?
The film has its moments, but it’s pretty thin stuff. James LeGros is pretty good as the pompous, anal TV cooking show host. He’s also so nerdy that you’d struggle to remember him from “Point Break”. I didn’t much like his Kelly Ripa-esque perky co-host, though, because from my experience, that isn’t something you see on cooking shows so much as cooking segments on insufferably cheery morning shows. As the bane of LeGros’ existence, Joshua Leonard gets better as the film goes on, as his character mentally, emotionally, and physically deteriorates. His reviews are also hilariously vicious, and whilst his performance isn’t as spectacularly pompous as TV food judges/critics, it’s not really meant to be. He’s a lowly blogger, and not charismatic enough to be on TV. He’s a douchebag, and in fact, not that much better a human being than LeGros, except that LeGros’ character actually has talent. The sense of righteousness his character has over Leonard is funny, but even moreso because Leonard is a pathetic loser hack not worth worrying about, really. By the way, is anyone surprised LeGros didn’t have Leonard standing in the corner looking away while he killed someone? Just me? OK then. Thanks to the two of you who get that gag, brought to you by the year 1999.
The one problem that all these films about kidnapping and torturing have is that there’s always someone playing the Richard Farnsworth role in “Misery”, and they’re never as interesting and amusing as Farnsworth. That’s certainly the case here with actor/producer Larry Fessenden.
One final question only tangentially related to this film: Where the heck is Heather Donahue? I swear I haven’t seen her since “The Blair Witch Project”, and you’d think she’d be the one to have gotten the most prominent career afterwards (Not that Leonard or Michael Williams make that many movies). Maybe “The Blair Witch Project” really did end with Michael and Josh killing Heather after all...
Some people will like this film, but for me, it’s too thin and only works in bits and pieces. Leonard and especially LeGros (who interestingly stops just shy of caricature) are good, though.