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ADVANCE: Eat with Me - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
ADVANCE: Eat with Me
Directing: B+
Acting: B+
Writing: B+
Cinematography: B
Editing: B

Eat with Me showed this weekend in Los Angeles as part of "Outfest Fusion: LGBT People of Color Film Festival</i>, and while I can't speak to how it stacks up to the rest of the festival's program (it's the only festival film I saw), I can certainly attest to it standing apart from most "indie" movies about gay people these days. This is a surprisingly strong film that deserves nationwide theatrical release, and we can only hope it gets what it deserves.

The central character here isn't the gay one, exactly, but his mother, Emma, played by Sharon Omi. Omi is up to the task of making Emma thoroughly empathetic even though she took her son's coming out so poorly that the two are now estranged. While it may be unfortunate that too many mothers in real life who can't take their children being gay turn into raving bitches, on film, it's refreshing to see at leas one such mother who isn't vindictive so much as simply having difficulty processing the information. Emma is simply lost in a life with terms she has yet to set for herself.

But, she's tired of her unattentive husband, which is how the film begins -- with him suddenly getting out of bed in the middle of the night and cutting off his wedding band, explaining that it's giving him a headache. Emma decides to leave for a while, and goes to the only place she knows she can: to her son, Elliot (Teddy Chen Culver). She shows up at the family restaurant Elliot is barely managing to keep limping along, and asks if she can stay with him for a while.

And so begins their journey together, which proves to be much more compelling than you might expect. Emma strikes up a friendship with Elliot's neighbor Maureen (and undeniably fun Nicole Sullivan), and the romantically (if not sexually) inexperienced Elliot begins to date a British guitarist named Ian (Aidan Bristow, all vivid blue eyes). Maureen, as it happens, proves instrumental in helping Emma move past the repressed emotions that have caused the fissure between her and her son.

But a catalyst comes from a pretty big "get" in terms of casting for this film: two scenes featuring George Takei, playing himself. Emma meets him on a park bench after a good cry, and and doesn't recognize him until he strikes up a conversation. Here fact and fiction blend a bit, with Takei introducing himself as "George" and making passing references to his own life in only the vaguest terms. In fact, it's not even clear that he's playing himself until people recognize him at a restaurant he shows up at in a later scene. But, amazingly, writer-director David Au keeps all of this from being too contrived, and with his two scenes playing out quite gracefully, Takei never feels like stunt casting.

The focus never pulls from Emma and her relationship with her son. George Takei aside, if there's any part of this movie that feels contrived, it's the comedic interlude involving the accidental ingestion of Ecstasy, and even that plays out surprisingly well. Elliot eventually asks for his mother's cooking guidance -- hence the title -- and although there is plenty of food-related context, this isn't even get another independent film enamored with "food porn." The food always looks good, but once again, it never pulls focus from the story at hand. It's not about the food, really. It's about Emma and Elliot.

And it's a touching journey to go on with them, something that comes recommended due to this film exceeding expectations on all fronts. It's not often a film with such a clearly low budget comes together this well, and this is a testament to the talent involved here, from the director to the actors. One can only hope this will be in a local theatre near you sometime soon, and that you will make the effort to see it. You won't be disappointed.

Aidan Bristow and Teddy Chen Culver bond over Chinese dumplings in EAT WITH ME.

Overall: B+
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