What’s this, you ask? Yet another comedy drama? Is that all you watch, Vic? All fair questions. My only response is that it’s not deliberate. Call it a strange coincidence, like the coincidence that had me watching, back-to-back, the latest films by the two directors who made two of my favourite films of 2008. Unfortunately, the same thing happened in both cases: I hoped for more than I got.
Fatih Akin’s 2008 film was the wonderful The Edge of Heaven. Soul Kitchen, released in 2010, is a perfectly enjoyable comedy drama (as was Win Win), but, also like Win Win, it’s nothing special (and I’m always hoping for something special).
Soul Kitchen is the story of Zinos, a struggling restaurant owner in Hamburg (the warehouse restaurant, located in an industrial area, is called Soul Kitchen) trying to stay one step ahead of the tax woman. When his romantic partner’s job leads her to China, Zinos tries to figure out how he can leave the restaurant and join her. But three men suddenly enter his life and turn it upside down in a matter of weeks. One of these is his brother, Illias, a thief who can get day passes from prison if he pretends to work at the restaurant. The second is an old friend who is trying too hard to buy the restaurant from Zinos. And the third is a volatile but good chef, recently fired, whom Zinos decides to hire after hurting his back.
Crisis follows crisis and Zinos’ life becomes a roller-coaster of ecstasy and despair. One minute everything is coming together and the restaurant is thriving, the next minute everything is taken away from him.
Like I said, Soul Kitchen, very much a comedy, is a lot of fun to watch, though occasionally it gets just a little too silly for my taste. Adam Bousdoukos (a lifelong friend of Akin’s) does a commendable job as Zinos. Moritz Bleibtreu, as Illias, is even better and it is his character who is the most interesting to watch as he struggles to change his life. Anna Berderke, who plays Lucia, the waitress, also has a fascinating character to play and does very well.
Like Win Win, Soul Kitchen has a good humanizing heart (as I would expect from Akin, and expected from McCarthy) and also gets a very solid ***. My mug is up but it’s waiting for someone to put something tastier inside.