Grade: 4.0 / 5.0
The recipe for a deranged sandwich shop is simple — throwing insults, kitchen slang, poisonous family members, and just a dash of Chicago roots. Reminiscent of Anthony Bourdain’s cruel and turbulent tales of the kitchen, Hollow’s latest comedy “The Bear” offers a menial and addictive palette of poor kitchen drama that breaks down the many layers of what it means to run a family restaurant.
After his brother commits suicide, celebrity chef Carmen “Carme” Berzato (Jeremy Allen White) returns home to run his family’s sandwich shop, The Beef, in Chicago, causing friction between his restaurant’s beliefs and those of the stubborn employees at Beef’s. Swinging on the edge, Carmi is challenged to fix a messy kitchen, debts mount and family relationships strain in a thrilling whirlwind of strained food service.
Not only does “Bear” quietly fold its viewers into the unknown at the sandwich shop, but usurps the audience on a new day at The Beef. Snapshots and photography for ’80s family dinner movies shot the shot on the super-chic screen as Carmi rushes around the kitchen and town, confirming that this frenetic restaurant story doesn’t have an elegant table for its guests.
Karmic’s sharp dialogue and tense wits bring him to the perfect underdog main course. As a charming pairing of a kitchen crew of colorful characters, White’s performance is the center of gravity for the raucous show, subtly channeling both the kitchen and the audience without overpowering the palate. Karmi feels like an evolution of Wyatt’s previous role as the clever lip in “Shameless,” honing that same wild energy into a rough, thrusting performance.
Ayo Ideberry sways when newcomer Sydney is in a standout performance, her surprising visions evoking a deeper level of authenticity in the comical kitchen bowl already filled with bona fide frenzy. Her sarcastic wit cleverly smiles from her increasingly harsh moments in the kitchen without diminishing the intensity of feelings. Plus, Edebiri’s sarcastic sharpness pairs perfectly with veteran white, making for an outstanding, student-oriented duo that thrives on screen.
Nestled between the frenetic kitchen and the boisterous Karmi psyche, “The Bear” presents a tranquil, contemplative Chicago landscape, defined by the soft blues of early mornings and late nights, the chefs keeping to themselves. Carmi quietly watching a misty sunset, Sydney waiting for the train at dawn, and Marcus Patissier (Lionel Boyce) dreaming of freshly glazed perfection through a donut shop window are just a few of the fragile and hopeful moments where the audience can catch their breath with the exhausted crew.
A hole-in-the-wall kitchen that’s overlooked is an effective narrative dish to serve up such a complex and weighty theme, as the diverse kitchen crew acts as a dysfunctional family unit alongside Karmi’s fractured kin. Allowing shots of laughter alongside blunders and sinister arguments as Carmi and the restaurant slowly find their way, the Raw series captures the confusing and brutal multiplier effect that the void created by loss.
The Bear is all the more striking when caught up in the choppy rush of the kitchen, balancing mad passion and steely perseverance with bursts of strikingly sweet sadness. While the show’s characters are lit up with their ambitions, donut innovations and ambiguous arcade heroics, “The Bear” itself falters in part as it takes on abstract moments like surreal Karmic dreams. By following one of these sequences, White offers an astonishing monologue that, while utterly simple compared to a complex dream, is a more thoughtful and sincere look at the tangled threads between his brother’s suicide and the restaurant that Karmi so desperately tries to fix.
Wearing a ring of “bear” feels like dragging a chair to a large gathering; Intimate, dysfunctional, uniquely painful, but honest in the way only family can be. A reminder that a five-star family can be found in all the wrong places, “Bear” is a gritty portrait of resilience with just the right amount of sarcasm to decorate.
Contact Addison Lee at [email protected].