'Soul Kitchen' serves up madcap comedy

Posted: September 03, 2010

An antic lark set in a divey restaurant in a run-down, hipster section of Hamburg (Wilhelmsburg, no less), Fatih Akin's Soul Kitchen is about as far afield - thematically, tonally - as you can get from the director's last feature. That was 2007's dark and deep The Edge of Heaven, a breathtaking meditation on the connections in our lives, the missed connections, and the sudden disconnect of death.

Soul Kitchen, on the other hand, is zany screwball farce. The eponymous eatery's cash-starved proprietor, a Greek transplant named Zinos (Adam Bousdoukos, who cowrote the screenplay with Akin), has hired a new chef (Birol √únel) to drum up business. But the hotheaded cook's mixture of haute cuisine and hauteur does not sit well with longtime customers. They exit in droves.

Meanwhile, Zinos' girlfriend, Nadine (Pheline Roggan), has moved to Shanghai, and their Internet relationship isn't working. And there's Illias (Moritz Bleibtreu), Zinos' criminally inclined brother, who wangles a job at the restaurant in order to stay out of jail. Add a cutthroat real estate mogul and an artsy waitress, an overzealous tax collector and a crowd of rock-and-rolling Hamburgians, and you have the ingredients for a loopy, madcap comedy.

There isn't much going on beneath the surface in Soul Kitchen, although it does paint a picture of a city, and a country, where cultural and ethnic assimilation seems to be moving forward, resiliently, optimistically.

Maybe that's why everybody's in such a good mood.


Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/onmovies/.

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