Rob Reviews "Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent"
Bruce Springsteen once did a song called “57 Channels (And Nothing On),” where he addressed the proliferation of network choices that we have at our disposal with the click of a button and how most of it seems like fluff. Since he recorded that song 25 years ago, the list of choices has gotten longer and longer and even more diverse to the point where I would be happier with a list of less than 50 of them total. One of the craziest addictions to these channels are the food and cooking selections. I have found times where I decide to check one show out and look up to realize it is hours later.
Jeremiah Tower is seen to many as one of the first “rock star” types of chefs, and documentarian Lydia Tenaglia has chosen to tell his story in “Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent”. Told evenly by the subject and many of his friends, some family, and his contemporaries like Anthony Bourdain, Mario Batali, and Wolfgang Puck, I was impressed with how the first act of his life is told in parallel with interview footage and narrative-style representations of his memories of moving around a lot with his family and being exposed to different types of delicacies, which would form his love for food and through a chance encounter after college formed his destiny. Tower seems to be an interesting balance of introvert and showman depending on the stage he is expected to be on. As the film starts, the first line of narration from him states that he “distances from humans, because I am not one,” yet when he begins work at Chaz Panisse and along with Alice Waters founds the “California cuisine” movement and continues through his own restaurant, Stars, and even up to his run at New York City’s Tavern on the Green’s re-opening, he is congenial to his guests as if he knows that he has to be the life of the party. (Waters was not interviewed for this film, but is still fairly active in the food community.)
The third act of the documentary is where things got a bit fuzzy for me. There is a lot of jumping around as Tower works with the kitchen staff of Tavern to why Stars closed the way it did and even historical events that some attribute to the peaks and valleys of his life and career. This made things a bit disjointed for me as I felt that certain parts of the story had been established, and going back to it from a different angle felt like it had been shoehorned into it at the last moment.
I cannot say that this is the worst documentary that I have ever seen, and I can also say that this is not the worst documentary I have seen this year either. Due to the fact that this was made by CNN Pictures, expect the network to play it ad nauseum in the near future, so just catch it there with the few sprinkled in profane words bleeped out.