FX Productions, 2022
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Movies and TV shows with great visual effects
On the big screen, the director calls all the shots and gains notoriety when a movie is well-received. However, in television, directors do not get nearly the same level of publicity or recognition. Often considered interchangeable, any given show can have several directors, even in just one season. Given this stark difference between television and film, the shooting style for shows can often be generic. For this reason, the new and critically acclaimed series The Bear stands out. Its stylized direction offers a contrast from many of its contemporaries and, paired with exceptional writing, has created a memorable first season.
Starring Jeremy Allen White (Shameless), The Bear follows Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto, a world class chef, and the back of the house crew at his family-owned sandwich shop on the south side of Chicago. The show is chock full of references to The Second City, be it the transportation, major streets, architecture, or consistently disappointing sports teams (I’m not bitter at all). On the surface, the show is about the turbulence and pressure that comes with working in food service. However, as the show’s title is a reference to the protagonist’s nickname, the deeper meaning of the half-hour drama is Carmy’s relationship with his family, specifically his deceased brother Michael (played in flashbacks by The Walking Dead’s Jon Bernthal).
The Bear utilizes every element at its disposal to convey the stress of running a kitchen. Creator Christopher Storer (Ramy) selects shots that make the viewer feel as though they are in training and shadowing the chefs. To heighten the senses, the show incorporates fast-paced music in the background as they toil, sometimes increasing in speed when they butt heads with one another. The camera often follows the characters around every corner as they slide past each other, shout instructions and multitask. It frequently swish pans between speaking characters and swerves as it circles the kitchen island. The audience experiences an abundance of close-ups, specifically when a character is stagnant as they taste-test or check order receipts.
Although there is plenty happening in regards to the restaurant in each episode, the FX series does not deny its audience three-dimensionality with its main characters. Carmy is an award-winning chef who has worked at the best restaurants in the world, so resurrecting the modest sandwich shop proves to be a humbling experience for him. In the later episodes, we learn what drove him to be so accomplished. His cousin Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Girls) wants to preserve the old feel of the shop and clashes with Carmy, who tries to run a tighter ship. While he is protective and loyal, Richie exhibits obnoxious, unfocused, and misogynistic behavior. Though he plays an antagonistic role at times, making Carmy’s job harder for seemingly no reason, a lot of his demeanor is explained by him masking the pain he feels at the sudden death of his best friend Michael.
Two characters that try to help Carmy, but actually frustrate him, are Sydney (Ayo Edebiri, Big Mouth), the second-in-command chef, and his sister, Natalie “Sugar” Berzatto (Abby Elliott, How I Met Your Mother). Sydney is ambitious and innovative but often tries to force change too quickly. A young woman and relatively new to the team, she struggles to gain the respect of the rest of the kitchen. Her efforts to connect with Tina (Liza Colón-Zayas, In Treatment) are initially rejected, and she continuously deals with Richie talking down to her. Through some successes along with Carmy’s support, she gains confidence but still carries doubt from her past shortcomings as a culinary entrepreneur. Natalie, on the other hand, expresses concern for Carmy’s well-being. While not a fan of the restaurant, her love for her brother is obvious in how frequently she reaches out to him and attempts to get the restaurant on solid financial ground.
The Bear’s best aspect is that it allows you to empathize with every character. From a professional standpoint, anyone who has worked in food service can relate to how the main characters cope with rough shifts and unwind afterward. For instance, Carmy goes home and, despite all his cooking expertise, makes a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The show also allows you to relate on a personal level. Anyone watching has grieved the death of a loved one and maybe even tried to continue working a job while doing so, like Carmy and Richie. Any viewer can relate to feeling like an outsider in a new job or school, especially when coming off a failed venture as Sydney does. Many audience members have had an aloof sibling that they wanted to open up to, similar to Natalie’s experiences.
While very different people, the one thing the main cast of characters has in common is their struggle to overcome self-doubt. All of their emotions are easy to understand and add depth to their interactions. The Bear will get your blood pumping during the lunch rush but may make you misty-eyed when the shift finally ends.