King Georges DVD Review

  • Actors: Georges Perrier, Nicholas Elmi
  • Director: Erika Frankel
  • Details: Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Not Rated
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • Release Date: June 21, 2016
  • Run Time: 77 minutes

        King Georges offers plenty of amusement in the character study of its subject, which is 67-year-old French chef George Perrier and his Philadelphia restaurant Le Bec-Fin, in equal measure. What is missing from the documentary is a clear narrative direction. Although non-narrative cinema is not required to have an opinion about the subject, despite an overabundance of propaganda-fueled films using the medium to make political points or encourage social action, King Georges almost goes too far in the opposite direction. The inexperience of first-time director Erika Frankel is apparent in her noncommittal perspective, instead choosing to allow the narrative to drift aimlessly from sequence to sequence. Nothing is boring, but I had no clear understanding of what the point of the film was by the end.

        In some ways King Georges would have worked as a straightforward biographical documentary about Perrier, though his background and history is quickly glossed over in favor of footage that Frankel captured during the last years of Le Bec-Fin. At times the documentary is sidetracked by the many physical problems of the aging restaurant, from flooding to equipment failure. For much of the run-time, this is more a movie about the closing of a legendary Philadelphia eatery, but even these events are too anticlimactic for cinematic use. The restaurant died a slow death, mostly because of Perrier’s dual stubbornness. He refuses to close the doors even as their business dwindles, but is equally unwilling to make the necessary changes to bring people back. Despite announcing its closing, the doors of Le Bec-Fin remained open long after the demand had waned.

        As if the narrative was not splintered enough, at a certain point King Georges becomes more about Perrier’s protégé than it is about him. This may have been something of an afterthought, because it is unlikely that Frankel knew that Nicholas Elmi would go on to his own fame when filming this documentary in 2010. Footage of Elmi years later winning the popular reality TV show, “Top Chef,” feels tacked on, shifting focus away from the documentary’s assumed primary subject. This works against the film somewhat, if only because of how stubborn Perrier can be, and how relatable Elmi is by comparison. When the two of them disagree over the direction of Le Bec-Fin, it is not difficult to decide which to agree with.   

        While none of these shortcomings prevent King Georges from being an enjoyable viewing experience, they all contradict the proposed theme of the film. Perhaps this is more a mistake of marketing, as the plot synopsis I had read online, as well as the DVD back cover, seems to suggest this is a film about Perrier’s second wave in his twilight years. More than that, this is a film about Perrier’s refusal to let go of the past and how this clinging gradually forced the legend into retirement.

The DVD includes a theatrical trailer as its sole special feature.

Entertainment Value: 7/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6/10
Historical Significance:  5/10
Special Features: 1/10

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