“42 GRAMS” Review- A film about the Evolution of a Chef

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The premiere film 42 GRAMS, 2017, is currently screening at select cities nationwide. It opened on Saturday, January 27th and 28th at the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 164 N. State St., Chicago, to be shown again this week, on January 31st   at 8 P.M. and on February 1st at 6 P.M.

Director Jack C. Newell, award-winning filmmaker and public artist, and Program Director of The Harold Ramis Film School at The Second City, Chicago, will appear for audience discussion at all screenings, along with documentary subject Alexa Welsh. On February 1st a discussion after the screening will be moderated by Mike Sula, lead restaurant critic of The Chicago Reader. The production team includes Editor David Burkart, a creative editor and camera operator in Chicago; music for the film was composed by Nick Takenobu Ogawa.

Chicago is clearly one perfect venue to screen this film, due to the director and the editor’s relationship with this city as well as the fact that the subject matter, a recently closed restaurant called “42 Grams” was located here in the Uptown neighborhood.

The sharply focused film, “an intimate portrait of a complicated chef”, is a close look at Jake Bickelhaupt, a superbly talented and largely self-taught culinary artist with high ideals and a very strong personality and his dedicated wife, Alexa Welsh. Although Jake had worked in very fine restaurants, he couldn’t find a fit in any of them for his extra-assertive personality. Jake and Alexa opened an “underground” (a fine P.C. catchphrase for illegal) restaurant, “Sous Rising”, out of their home in Chicago, serving stellar meals.

Food served at 42 Grams, the restaurant

Eventually they rehabbed a former chicken shack and launched a “real” restaurant, “42 grams”. They lived in the apartment above, but worked constantly. The extraordinary demands of this life took a gargantuan toll on their marriage, his temper, and their ability to continue. Jake refers to the surround-sound experience as “a prison”.

Newell, who met the couple when he enormously enjoyed a meal served in their home, takes the audience on a journey that developed- as did his relationship with the couple- in the 2 years it took to make the film. Newell shares  the immersive experience of investing oneself in the life challenging work of bringing a dream to fruition very eloquently with the audience. The zenith of a personality defining moment, when Jake reacts to learning that the restaurant has been awarded 2 much coveted Michelin stars, will stun the viewer with his self absorption; he ignores the work of majordomo Welsh, who served as host, general manager and all around factotum.

The 82 minute movie is compelling, very well shot- the beauty of the food alone is worth the price of admission- and quite an intimate portrait of a very demanding human being with a spectacularly hardworking partner/ spouse. It’s ironic that the title of the film and the name of the restaurant, “42 Grams”, is based on the concept, culled from a 1907 doctor’s research, that the soul weighs 21 grams. There were 2 souls involved in this joint venture restaurant, which closed inexplicably after 3 years. One wonders what the ego weighs?

The chef at his restaurant; Jake Bickelhaupt of “42 Grams”

All photos courtesy of “42 GRAMS”.

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