Review: ‘Abe’ takes the stomach route to Israeli and Palestinian hearts, but it’s all overdone
A preteen, half-Israeli, half-Palestinian budding chef in Brooklyn tries to unite the squabbling halves of his family through his fusion cuisine. Sounds potentially tasty, but there are too many sour notes in the mix.
“Abe,” which played at Sundance, stars Noah Schnapp (Will on “Stranger Things”) as the boy who would be peacemaker. Seu Jorge (the Brazilian music star American audiences will recall from “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou” and “City of God”) makes an impression as Chico, the brilliant chef who eventually takes persistent Abe under his wing.
Unfortunately, no one in Abe’s family (except, perhaps an … uncle? Great-uncle?) seems to particularly care about him. They dismiss things he says and pay no attention to his passion. They’re far too engaged in generations-old fights to acknowledge the kid’s thoughtful efforts to bring harmony, or even to taste his apparently delicious concoctions. They suddenly care when there’s a hint of peril, but by then, they’ve lost us.
The metaphors fail to rise like a cake without the proper amount of carbon dioxide (which we learn in the film, but Abe’s parents don’t). If only these folks could stop yelling at each other for a moment and taste Abe’s scrumptious food, taken from both cultures and more — all would be solved. The score is dotted cleverly with fusion of its own, most successfully with some modern bossa nova tracks that elevate the scenes they accompany.
But the self-conscious filmmaking doesn’t help, with edits every few seconds even in casual conversations, egregious use of montage and forced-feeling approximations of computer screens, hashtags and memes. It almost works as food porn when we spend some time in Chico’s kitchen, but we never linger long enough for the experience to marinate.
The movie is apparently aimed at younger viewers with its clean, simplistic message of unity, but it’s doubtful many kids (or adults) would want to sit through those tiresome shouting matches that overwhelm the film’s other flavors.
Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
Playing: Available April 17 on VOD
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