Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
East Side Sushi: Raw Fish and Hot Peppers
tough working a fruit cart in Oakland. Juana would know. She is about to be
held-up and roughed-up by the thugs targeting cart workers. Frankly, it is hard
to make a go of anything in the economically distressed city, but its sushi
restaurants seem to be uncharacteristically healthy. Juana will still have to
create her own opportunities to become a sushi chef in Anthony Lucero’s East Side Sushi (trailer here), which opens
tomorrow in Los Angeles.
before the robbery, Juana wanted a better way of life. She thinks she might
have found it in one of the Japanese restaurants owned by Mr. Yoshida. You
could say he is reasonably progressive in that all kitchen employees receive
health benefits, but he has very definite ideas about who can prepare sushi up
front. They have to be male and Asian, preferably Japanese, or at least trained
in Japan. She is neither, but as she learns from Aki, the talented but timid
sushi chef, she starts to harbor ambitions. She also makes her new found
passion for sushi relatively palatable for her daughter and father by
incorporating poblanos and jalapenos. Maybe she’s onto something there.
East Side is a hard film to
take critical stock of, because it takes absolutely no risks, but there is no
denying its earnestness and the charisma of its principles. If enough people
see it, East Side could be a word of
mouth smash, precisely because its predictable arc is like comfort food. Still,
there are moments that stay with you. Lead Diana Elizabeth Torres truly brings
tears to viewers’ eyes when she desperately declares “I deserve an opportunity.”
You can just hear centuries of the American dream welling up under her.
Yutaka Takeuchi is terrifically understated as Aki. Roji Oyama also brings unexpected
nuance to Mr. Yoshida. However, old Pops is an annoying combination of bluster
and soft cultural prejudice. In general, the restaurant ensemble is much better
than the home ensemble, but Torres is terrific working with both.
Maybe the big sushi roll-off does not completely
follow the standard issue template, but it does not deviate too far. Yet, there
is no denying the film takes you to a satisfying place. All kinds of nice, East Side Sushi is recommended for
people who do not go to the movies very often and want to see something a lot
like the last thing they really enjoyed when it opens tomorrow (9/18) in Los
Angeles at the NoHo 7.
Labels: Culinary Cinema