I recently watched the trailer for a documentary about a group of amateur sommeliers who triumph at a wine show, and, dear viewer, I cringed. The template of Mighty Ducks invites cringeworthy sentimentalism, so I simply could not stomach the sommelier tale. “The Kitchen Brigade,” however, takes that “rank outsiders who are coached to wild success” template and freshens it up. The storyline is simple: a superbly trained, doctrinaire chef signs up to cook for a hostel for illegal immigrants in France, and, after initially resisting, trains the eclectic group of young, perilously situated men in her trade. Whilst Audrey Lamy strikes an aggressive coaching pose that does not invite viewer identification (and the screenplay’s transition point is weak), what she does convey is the flash and skill and discipline of the chef’s trade, and it becomes quite thrilling to see the callow young adults embrace top-level cuisine. And the various immigrants, all modestly portrayed, offer a moving window into the harsh world of illegal immigration.
The climax might be predictable, the message might be gushy, but The Kitchen Brigade zips along at a commendable pace and, unexpectedly, moved me to (unsentimental) tears. Well worth catching.