Dec 30, 2016

[Movies] King Georges (2015)

One major perk of signing up for Netflix has been its library of documentaries - a good number of them being related to food. And I've really come to enjoy these features since most of them are pretty well done and quite the lovely celebration of food.

King Georges was one with a bit more somber tone to it as it documents the end of a famous restaurant. That was pretty clear from the documentary synopsis, but I don't think I was fully prepared for the whole experience as it unfolded.

Now I don't claim to be some sort of "foodie" as I tend to favor more practical meal options over more indulgent fare. But I do have a healthy respect for it and perhaps a sense of appreciation as well, albeit from afar. I do want to try fine dining sometime, but perhaps when the budget is more capable of supporting it.

But back on point, this is ultimately the story of the man behind the restaurant and not just the restaurant itself. And it makes for a compelling story.

Synopsis: King Georges is a documentary feature centered around French chef Georges Perrier and his restaurant the Le Bec-Fin in Philadelphia. It was directed by Erika Frankel.

The documentary almost begins at the end - you know that this feature documents the closing of the Le Bec-Fin restaurant. It's going to happen. But still we follow around Chef Georges Perrier as we look back at his career and we see how he runs the restaurant in its final days. This juxtaposition of his former glory and the somewhat sad state of affairs now is bittersweet. But these things do happen.

The movie also touches on the team that has helped keep the Le Bec-Fin alive despite the changing tastes of the average diner and the shifting of the entire restaurant landscape. And it's not like some protracted fight either - it's more about the man and in a way being left behind as the world demands more novelty over refined traditions.

What I Liked: While every documentary has a bit of a slant or angle to things in how it chooses to tell the story, King Georges feels almost distant or remote from the subject for the most part. We follow Perrier around the kitchen and we follow him to the market and we follow him home. There's a lot of story there, but in essence Perrier is the story. It's not about his food anymore or about his cooking skills. It's about this old man in this aging restaurant.

It's not a depressing story for the most part. If anything it feels rather respectful albeit somber and measured in how it depicts things. Sure there are moments that depict Perrier as the sort of classically trained chef who gets furious in the kitchen and all that, but that's all part of the story.

What Could Have Been Better: At the same time you kind of wish there was more of an active narrative direction at times since it felt a bit more like a reality show relying on editing more than a documentary pursuing a story. The restaurant should have been more of a character here and instead of was just a setting.

This is not to say that Perrier is important. But I kind of wish that the restaurant got more instead of trying to paint more drama into the kitchen or something. But such is life.

TL;DR: King Georges is still a thoughtful, well-intentioned documentary that has its poignant moments along with the sad bits. It's not the most gripping one I've watched and it could have been more involved but it still managed its story well enough. The documentary gets a good 3.5 innovations originated at the Le Bec-Fin out of a possible 5.


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