Monday, October 17, 2011

Toast (C)

The greatest flaw of the new Nigel Slater biopic Toast is that the film peaks too early, and by "too early" I mean the film's opening credits. I am not saying this as a backhanded compliment; the opening credit sequence is truly a work of art. Set to a cheesy 60's song about food, a very young Nigel and his mother go stroll through their local market passing by canned goods labeled by the names of the cast and crew. Like Gentleman Broncos before it, this clever appetizer to the cinematic main course (puns absolutely intended) sets the bar so high for the film that matching it would a surprising yet unlikely result. While I am not surprised that the film did not live up to it's credits, I am shocked of how much of a misfire the film turned out to be.

The key reason the opening credits worked so well was because of the absolute innocence coating the scene. Though this criticism could be taken as invalid as the film is a biopic, but the quick transformation from innocent to scheming in Slater's character gave the film a feeling of grime where it's sweet nostalgic heart should be. This film requires its audience to sympathize with the lead in order for his bad-mannered behavior to be justified, but because he simply is an unlikable and ignorant human being, everything falls apart. The most egregious example of this is towards the end of the film, where his step-mother whom he had always had a rivalry with finally asks for his forgiveness and try to become a family again. His response? Blame her for the death of his father, and run away. Though I write this with a clear bias, does this sound like the type of character you'd root for? To answer my own rhetorical question, no, he does not.

Another issue I had with the film was its shoehorning of Slater's sexuality. Yes, there is a reveal in the final few minutes of the film that Slater is gay, but what is the point of a reveal when there is nothing to set it up. Director S.J. Clarkson plays his first homosexual kiss like some type of huge moment, but nothing other than one throw-off line (when Slater is six, another six year old boy asks if he'd like to see his penis, to which Slater agrees. As said, this is only one throw-off line and has nothing to do with the plot) would give any significance to this event. Perhaps in an earlier draft of the script more attention was brought to his homosexuality, but whether this theory is true or not the scene remains in the film.

Though the film is not very good, it still does contain a few noteworthy scenes including the previously mentioned opening credit sequence. There is a plot thread in which Slater and his step-mother use dueling lemon meringue pies to fight for the affection of their respective husband/father which had a nice silent film quality about it. Did it have that much to do with the plot? No, but it was a nice diversion from a messy (pun?) whole.

Overall, Toast had enough delectable moments to prevent it from becoming a culinary disaster, but there wasn't really enough filling to recommend the dish. Terrible puns aside, you still probably shouldn't see this movie.

Grade: C

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