There was a time when people used to go to the movies to see something good. Really people like to make it hard for themselves. How many times do you see your friends and neighbors going to see a movie where they get exactly what they expect they will get, and allow their low standards to stay at mild simmer? Soul Kitchen, in German with English subtitles and a universal spirit, is a chance again for a smart adult comedy that skirts the expected but shoots off the rails to elevated realms of the heightened senses. Ahh, what it was like to be young and horny again, not to mention, hungry!
Now the filmmaker Fatih Akin, a Turk raised in Germany, has been acclaimed for his previous films “Head-On” (2004, great love tragedy) and “The Edge of Heaven” (2007, great multi-chain ensemble cast drama) which are both highly recommended by me. “Soul Kitchen” is his first comedy, and by this point he proves himself a filmmaking virtuoso, and his eclectic and rambunctious comedy concerns the woes and crises of fat decision-making of a young thirty-something restaurateur Zinos (Adam Bousdoukos, very appealing, a beefier Jim Morrison type with a Keanu Reeves incarnation of Zen).
It’s a great food movie, too, but you get sucked in for love of its characters. Zinos’ girlfriend Nadine (Pheline Roggan, temperamental but sexy) has just flown off to Shanghai on professional assignment and can’t quite make it out to see her, so he tries to reinvent his casual greasy spoon eatery into something more trendy, until it becomes a restaurant-techno-pub with a control freak top chef (Birol Unel) who insists on changing the menu to a fancy cuisine. You can’t have a German hip-hop themed restaurant and make it work without a little marketing, so cue the advertising ideas quick, please.
As a man compulsive with quick-fix solutions, Zinos tries to turn his business into a self-supporting enterprise that would require less of his presence. He makes frantic efforts to change everything fast up until he injures his back with a very health-threatening sprain that requires care and rest. Cue the cute and awesome physical therapist Anna (Lucia Faust) who relieves the pain and pushes Zinos to take better care of himself, alas, they start chit-chatting in a way that’s just a remove away from flirting. Anna takes a good guess that Zinos has a crush on her, but he’s trying, well, not to look so obvious. Zinos is all guilty feelings about that, which makes him even more want to abandon his entire restaurant so he can go fly out to see his real girlfriend Nadine, who is an impatient girl with questionable fidelity.
Which leaves Zino the question of whether to leave the restaurant in the hands of his ex-con thuggish brother Illias (Moritz Bleibtreu, “Run Lola Run”), who has the passion but not so much maturity to handle such a task – he’s also too bored to be just a server, he wants a manager title. In addition, Illias has a unprofessional and untimely crush on one of the waitresses. A childhood friend of Zinos is Neumann (Wotan Wilke Mohring, a damn snide villain), who feigns help and support, but is actually out to backstab Zinos so he loses the restaurant and property. Cue the health inspector, arghh. The most riotously funny sequence involves all of Zinos’ patrons being intoxicated by an aphrodisiac hidden in the food, which is also consumed by the health inspector, on an all hip-hop night that turns ribald.
Hopefully by this point you can tell that this movie is just plain fun. Sophisticated comedy of this breed is so rare. This is the kind of comedy for those people who appreciate such smart comedies like “Sideways” or “Burn After Reading” or geez, even “Waitress” or “Muriel’s Wedding,” and this euphoric high of a film should be ranked in the middle of those titles. Yes all those films are of different execution and intent, but they all have a brain in common.
I have forgotten to really say or reveal the slightest hint of what happens in the third act of “Soul Kitchen,” but why should I? You should really go and discover for yourself why this is the wildest comedy of the year and the most adult-geared entertainment – an intoxicating sexy flambé of a movie.
99 Minutes. Rated R.
FOREIGN / ROMANTIC COMEDY / SEXY IMAGES / WEEKEND MOVIE WITH A BOTTLE OF WINE
Film Cousins: “Like Water for Chocolate” (1993, Mexico); “Big Night” (1996); “Love Actually” (2003); “Head-On” (2004, Germany).