2023 Milwaukee Film Festival: Day Thirteen “THE ‘VOUS”

It comes a time in every film festival where you reach the point where a film just doesn’t work for you. For me, it was THE ‘VOUS despite I presume genuine effort by all involved.

Here’s what Milwaukee Film had to say about the film.

In its seventh decade of business, the famed Memphis alleyway barbecue institution, The Rendezvous, faces unprecedented change as its legendary servers retire and the immigrant family-owned business rolls into a new generation. Proving that the restaurant business can create chosen families that bring even more folks together with food, this intimate, character-driven doc will leave you hungry for more.”

That’s a description that indicates that there’s a lot that’s appealing. History, class, race, the changing of the guard, and tasty food. Unfortunately all of the potentially interesting bits of story find themselves lost in a sea of different storyhooks with little to nothing tying the various threads together. I’m sure there’s a cooking related metaphor to use, but THE ‘VOUS flits from person to person and story thread to story thread without meaningfully deepening our understanding of THE ‘VOUS and the people that occupy it. We maybe get an Act I of a story, but little to no followup, complication, conflict, drama, or stakes. We maybe get a person and their situation, but not much beyond that.

It’s no sin that a film doesn’t come together in the editing bay. You can tell what drew the filmmakers to the story. But, at some point you have to make choices, choose a focal point, and dig in. The film never gets beyond skin deep. As a result, it feels like a season of highlights from a reality show. And not a particularly good one, as there are no stars and no drama queens to add some excitement to the proceedings. There isn’t even much on how to make better barbeque. At best THE ‘VOUS is a pleasant diversion, but more often it’s not much better than something you could fold laundry to.

The 2023 Milwaukee Film Festival is over, but will return. In the meantime, Milwaukee Film is running the Oriental Theatre in Milwaukee and bringing great films to screen monthly.