Aaron Abrams delivers a towering and commanding lead performance in writer-director Jesse Zigelstein’s debut feature, Nose to Tail (screening at the 2019 Ottawa Canadian Film Fest), the story of an egotistical and stressed out business owner who’s about to reach his wit’s end.
Dan (Abrams) runs a once well regarded high end restaurant that’s fallen on hard times financially. His suppliers are starting to cut him off. His landlord (Robert B. Kennedy) is on the verge of kicking him out. His chef de cuisine (Brandon McKnight) has one foot out the door. His flirtations with his front of house manager (Lara Jean Chorostecki) both help and complicate matters. Nose to Tail unfolds across what might be Dan’s final make-or-break day. Anything that could go wrong probably will, and Dan’s ego and pursuit of absolute culinary perfection when he can’t afford it makes him his own worst enemy.
Nose to Tail isn’t the first drama to be made about a struggling and entitled chef, but it’s certainly one of the most immediate, visceral, and purposefully uncomfortable. Zigelstein moves everything along at a lightning fast pace, packing as much story as he can into 80 minutes and eliminating as much fat as possible without sacrificing his deftly realized character study. It appropriately feels like being stuck in a pressure cooker environment with a realistically unlikable and flawed “protagonist” barking orders.
Between this and last year’s riotously funny, feel-bad comedy The Go-Getters, Abrams is making a strong case for being one of the finest character actors and leading men in Canada today. He excels here as a self-involved and self-loathing smartass who once commanded respect and acclaim but is now only a genius in his own mind. Watching Dan rapidly unravel in mid-breakdown is an interesting and refreshing approach to such a story, and while it’s well handled by Zigelstein and the supporting cast, it’s Abrams’ volatile performance that’s bringing Nose to Tail to a higher level of excellence.
Nose to Tail screens at the Ottawa Canadian Film Festival on November 2, 2019 at 8:00 pm at the Arts Court Theatre.
Check out our Q&A post with director Jesse Zigelstein.
Review reprinted with permission.