Carlos Carrasco in Turnover (Photo: Turnover, LLC)
★★★ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Linda Palmer
STARS Paul Guilfoyle, Carlos Carrasco
Like the delectable pastry of the title, the indie effort Turnover is a tasty treat that will leave patrons feeling content and satisfied.
It’s the type of film that’s often described as “feel-good,” a term that has fallen out of favor with today’s more cynical mindset. But there’s nothing wrong with a feel-good film when it’s done right, and, aside from a few awkward interludes (mostly in the second half), this one is done right. And then there’s the added bonus of the picture being available at a time when this nation is having to contend with a fascistic leader whose preferred m.o. is to divide and conquer through fear and loathing. If nothing else, Turnover serves as balm for those seeking a respite from real-world horrors — it’s a reminder that we shouldn’t reject those who are different from us but should instead accept them as friends and maybe even family.
Paul Guilfoyle, best known for his work on the long-running TV series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and in such films as Air Force One and Beverly Hills Cop II, stars as Peter, the harried owner of a small café that serves only French food. Caught between the demands of his manager Henry (Riker Lynch) and his ex-wife Fran (Katharine “Kat” Kramer), he reluctantly goes on vacation to de-stress. When he returns, he discovers that Henry has quit, but not before exacting his revenge by hiring a team of (as one character notes) “misfits.” The film’s title thus takes on a double meaning, with Peter having to contend with an entirely new staff. The meek William (Adwin Brown) is the new manager; the older and inexperienced Gladys (Julia Silverman) is the waitress; the goth girl Pepper (Isabella Blake-Thomas) is the hostess; and young lovers Charlie (Blair Williamson) and Gina (Jamie Brewer), two kids with Down syndrome, are the bus boy and bus girl. And then there’s the former convict Miguel (Carlos Carrasco, delivering the film’s best performance), who’s the new chef. How can a café bill itself as a French eatery when its cook can only make Mexican fare like tacos and burritos?
Clearly, the stage is set for a dramedy in which Peter learns to accept and embrace the diversity thrust before him. It’s a well-worn premise, so the surprise is just how much emotional currency writer-director Linda Palmer and co-scripter Laree’ Griffith mine from this material. On paper, these sound like characters who could populate an inane sitcom (Two and a Half Turnovers), but Palmer and Griffith invest them with enough personality and peculiarities that most of them break free of any constrictive designations. Here’s a heartwarming film that truly does warm the heart rather than inadvertently cause heartburn with cloying sentiment and unearned pathos. Its emotional potency is most obvious in the scene in which Miguel, who’s been taking care of his ailing mother, breaks down in front of Peter.
Admittedly, there are instances when the picture adds awkward or unnecessary ingredients. There’s an unfortunate food fight at one point — the last time one of those was funny was in 1978’s National Lampoon’s Animal House, and probably those vintage Three Stooges shorts before that. Fran’s fiancé is such an obvious and one-note jerk that any sympathy we might have felt for her dissipates after he commits one particularly unpardonable act. And the character of Pepper’s mom Charlotte (Elina Madison), a nurse by trade, is little more than an extra until the home stretch. Her sudden prominence results in an embarrassing scene in which she and her daughter engage in a protracted argument while another character is possibly dying somewhere in the background; after this, she’s promoted to deus ex machina status to round out the narrative.
Still, a few bumps in the road don’t prevent the majority of the trip from being enjoyable. Like much of culinary cinema (Eat Drink Man Woman, Babette’s Feast, and many, many more), Turnover offers food for thought while sating the senses.
(Turnover is now available on Amazon Prime, Google Play, and other streaming services.)