Love, Charlie Movie Review & Synopsis (2022)

There is a certain level of dedication that helps one achieve such greatness and status, and “Love, Charlie” allows the most challenging parts of Trotter to be as they do. His cuisine, for example, had a violent, edgy atmosphere that one might say is par for the course in the restaurant industry, or not worth romanticizing (this documentary doesn’t). Many stories are shared here of his temper and size when disciplining his crew; His cameo in “My Best Friend’s Wedding” even had him portraying a version of himself in a frantic kitchen, threatening to kill the employee’s family if they messed up. It was a joke coming from a certain place, whatever the spoof was supposed to be.

“Love, Charlie” chronicles Trotter’s various accomplishments that have influenced the way we think, look, and experience food. He was considered a forward thinker when it came to offering more vegetarian-friendly dishes; His cookbooks depicted food in a deluxe close-up, with Achatz calling it “pornographic”. Placing a special table in the middle of the kitchen for customers to appreciate the process that went into their food.

The editorial compilation and presentation about “Love, Charlie” is a bit dry for my tastes, I struggle to build an interesting pace with the storytelling and then this happened. But the film’s emotional strength benefits from its extensive archive, and how it presents it. Through the myriad of letters and images, Trotter feels like an active presence in the film, with Halpern cutting occasional close-ups from small but microscopic line art. These various artifacts, largely collected by his first wife, allow him to be the chorus in retelling his story. When “Love, Charlie” reached a particularly difficult point in his life, after he closed the restaurant and put him out of business, he wrote wistfully: “If you have a period of seclusion, my friend, make the most of it.”

He throws “Love, Charlie” around the word “mysteries” when trying to sell Trotter to viewers, without embracing it all. It is a key term, as mysteries are mysteries and contradictions. Halpern’s documentary works best when its tone is able to balance admiration for his accomplishments but also be honest about the bridges he’s burned, the employees who seem to have worked the ground up, or the toll his passion has taken on him. Halpern’s film doesn’t try to get all the answers about Trotter, so much as it tries to stand back and look all the pieces together.

Now showing in cinemas and available on Apple TV + and Amazon.

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