The cliché of the volatile chef riding roughshod over his subordinates receives a thorough airing in “Nose to Tail,” a resolute but finally punishing wallow in self-destructiveness and obnoxious male behavior.
Putting his back into the role of Daniel, the abrasive owner of a high-end bistro, Aaron Abrams gives him a swelling desperation that’s surprisingly touching. Over the course of a single, devastating day, Daniel will fight to save his reputation from ruin and his restaurant from bankruptcy. Bestubbled, hung over and popping painkillers, he’s betting everything on a lavish, seven-course meal designed to seduce an old friend and potential investor.
Before that can happen, a series of high-stakes confrontations illustrate Daniel’s past failings and deep-seated anger. His landlord is demanding overdue rent; his longtime chef de cuisine has accepted a better position; his ex-wife plans to relocate with their son and his beleaguered hostess and sometime girlfriend (Lara Jean Chorostecki) is refusing to grant him on-the-job sexual favors. Adding insult to injury, a snippy blogger has published a takedown and a gourmet food truck may be siphoning his clientele. No wonder his sommelier (a subtly suave Salvatore Antonio) has figured out where their missing inventory is going.
Taking pains to establish Daniel’s culinary gifts without belaboring them, the writer and director, Jesse Zigelstein, allows us brief respites — as when Daniel wordlessly butchers a hog — from his antihero’s rage. Just don’t expect any learning and growing: Daniel might be one amuse-bouche from insolvency, but self-examination isn’t even on the menu.