2001. Dir. Bob Giraldi.
Dimly lit and tightly shot, Dinner Rush perfectly recreates the cramped space and close contact of a restaurant, both in the kitchen and on the floor. The frenzied pace—with its blur of romantic entanglements, sizzling dishes, rude customers, and the looming threat of a mob hit—is shot so delicately that the film seems to have been chemically processed by candlelight. Although the movie takes place entirely over one night, Bob Giraldi and his actors give you the full dimensions of each of the many characters that pop into Gigino, the finest Italian restaurant in Tribeca. The actors speak in hushed tones and even the bursts of ugly violence are muted, as if jotted down on a waiter’s notepad. Danny Aiello is particularly fine as the restaurant’s owner, but he’s one of many stellar performances. The tense chef/dictator Udo (Edoardo Ballerini) is terrific, veering from sexy to lacerating in an instant. The resident bartender can answer any, and I mean any, question. The waitstaff—including Summer Phoenix and Polly Draper as waitresses and Ajay Naidu as a sharply dressed maitre d’—shine as a sort of Greek Chorus on the clientele’s action. And that clientele—including a snotty art critic, a Wall Street investment banker who has a little surprise for us, and Sandra Bernhard and Sophie Comet (as, respectably, a food critic and her hanger-on)—is remarkable. This crowd is erudite, snippy, profane, impolite, and proprietary… just like real customers. In many ways, Dinner Rush documents a monumental night in the life of its workers, but you would never know it from its casual tone and easy-does-it pace.