Our protagonist is the restaurant's bartender, Chris Calloway (Adrien Brody - Summer of Sam, Six Ways to Sunday), a struggling playwright weaving his real life problems into his first play -- a work in progress that he can't seem to finish. When he meets the newest waitress Jeanine (Elise Neal - Mission to Mars) and they hit it off, he's faced with his second interracial relationship (the first being Lauryn Hill, who we see mostly as a picture on the refrigerator). Chris can't figure out why he likes black women so much, especially after his Italian father raised him to be a bigot. This dilemma is portrayed in his unfinished play, which is the story of a white man that can't deal with the external pressures of having a black girlfriend, even though he's madly in love. As he tries to make sense of his feelings, he gets caught up in the past when his ex (Hill) shows up at a friend's wedding. Because his relationship with her ended on such a bizarre note, he can't put it behind him, which prevents him from devoting his heart to Jeanine, and finally, thwarts him from finishing the play. Whew!
Fortunately, the movie is not as mushy as the plot may sound. Chris has some pretty interesting friends who all face issues of their own. Malcolm Jamal-Warner, from The Cosby Show, is a Howard University graduate who is relegated to the position of waiter because he's black, even though he's a qualified bartender. Jesse Martin, from Ally McBeal, is an intelligent man stuck as a line cook who offers rationalizations regarding the white stigmatization of the N-word. David Moscow (Newsies) plays Reggae, the head chef content with his existence as a pothead, soliciting prostitutes with regularity, and considering himself to be from "the hood" even though he's white. Ethan (Michael Stoyanov) is also a waiter, but happens to be homosexual and finds he can't get promoted even after years of loyal service. The whirlwind of tumult causes the movie to run a little long, but it's actually much needed in order to make its powerful statement for racial tolerance. Essentially, the film comes to grips with a plethora of controversial issues that we've all heard about in after-school specials or seen in other movies before, but it's still entertaining thanks to a blend of humorous dialogue and good acting.
At its core, Restaurant is an important movie for at least offering another perspective on interracial relationships beyond Spike Lee's Jungle Fever. I recommend it, and even non-Gen X'ers, at whom the film is directed, are sure to get something positive from the movie.
You can smoke in this Restaurant.
Run time: 107 mins
In Theaters: Saturday 24th July 1999
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
IMDB: 6.1 / 10
Director: Eric Bross
Screenwriter: Tom Cudworth
Starring: Adrien Brody as Chris Calloway, Elise Neal as Jeanine, David Moscow as Reggae, Simon Baker as Kenny, Catherine Kellner as Nancy, Malcolm-Jamal Warner as Steven, Jesse L. Martin as Quincy, Sybil Temchen as Lenore, John Carroll Lynch as John English