A Place at the Table

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a place at the table

Actor Jeff Bridges.

I’m a little confused by a few things regarding this movie. First, it was rated PG. I’m not sure why. Second, who is going to see it? It’s a documentary that merely dumps info on your lap. It’s information about hunger in America that most of us already know. Now, I hate Michael Moore for a number of reasons, but if this documentary would’ve had the humor and anger his do, we may have had something here. Directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush never even seem to confront the politicians that get to BS.

I enjoyed listening to actor Jeff Bridges, and was surprised to see he and his brother Beau made a movie about the topic (Hidden in America). Just as Ed Beagley Jr. does when it comes to going green, Bridges puts his money where his mouth is regarding hunger. He’s the founder of the End Hunger Nework.

I’m not familiar with Top Chef on Bravo, but listening to Tom Colicchio talk about his mom working at the school cafeteria, and her reason for not wanting to retire was that she “knows this is the only meal some of these kids will have all day.” That’s some powerful stuff.

The various talking heads were mildly interesting. Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved, delivers some disturbing stats

Of course it’s heartbreaking to see a 10-year-old girl that talks about how embarrassed she is when friends come to her house. When she shows us where she sleeps, it is piled with clothes, and the shelves are used for household products. It’s not a bedroom, but a small pantry. Hardly the room we think of for a 10-year-old girl who should have unicorns on the walls, kids books on the shelves. Yet when I see her outside, I notice their family has three or four dogs. When I adopted two dogs from the shelter, I realized quickly how expensive they were (dog food, vet bills, etc).

It’s also smart that the filmmakers talked to poor people that are working.

All of us are shocked to learn that when a woman featured in this does get a job – she loses the benefits that were giving her food. She makes too much for her girls to get the lunch from the school cafeteria, and they’re back to eating junk food at home (since that’s cheaper). I was dying to find out why she had a second child if she was having problems financially. That’s not the type of documentary this was about. Again, it was merely an info-dump.

The movie wasn’t about food stamps, but I just heard people on the radio today talking about the various things people are allowed to buy with food stamps and the controversies surrounding the program. Listening to 10 minutes of that on the radio made me wish for a documentary on the subject.

When a local marshal is talking about being on food stamps in A Place at the Table, he mentions that he hasn’t had a raise in four years. I wanted to know what his salary was and why he couldn’t afford food with a job like that. If you’re presenting this to us, I want details. I also want to know why this dolt has braces on his teeth. Last I heard, those were thousands of dollars. He might have the nicest teeth in this one-horse town, that unfortunately won’t be able to bite into food.

Some parts about the farm policy and what is subsidized I found interesting. There was a breakdown of how family farms used to be and what they’ve become. You also don’t realize how hard it is for trucks to make deliveries in these small towns. That means you don’t see a lot of fresh fruit in the stores.

A few times watching this I was bored, and my mind would wander. I wondered why one mom named her daughter Tremonica.

I thought it was funny that the woman that wrote the book Food Politics is named Marion Nestle.

The movie was generally interesting, and it didn’t annoy me the way Waiting for Superman did. I’m just not sure who would pay to go see this. They’re definitely going to feel guilty spending $5 on a small popcorn.

A pleasant surprise was seeing that T. Bone Burnett and the Civil Wars did the music.

I’m giving this 2 out of 5 stars.

8 comments

  • Grahma2

    Hmm – perhaps reviewer should see it again. The people who will see this movie are those who really care about children going hungry in a nation that gives huge subsidies to farmers not to grow food. Has it occurred to him that sometimes people have their children when they are working and then lose their jobs?

    How sad – he has the platform to encourage people to see this movie and then do something to help people in our community and he blew it.

  • Cardig

    I appreciated the review, and the attempt at humor. Like the reviewer said, it is an info dump, not entertainment.
    I now know, not to waste my time going to the movie.
    Like the reviewer wondering about the CHOICES people make, that maybe affect their futures, I too wonder about food stamp users who can go thru the grocery line with two separate purchases. One is food paid for with food stamps, the other is cigarettes, booze, and junk food paid for with CASH. HHmmmm, wondering about that.

  • Mark

    Attempt at humor??? Where was the humor attempt in the article? Seeing how this reviewer is a "movie crtic" I expected him to provide a review on the movie…in this case a documentary. The majority of the review was about his opinion on the food stamp program. There is no doubt that the program is way over abused but I was hoping for a better critique about the movie itself and the message it tried to convey or maybe failed to deliver. Perhaps an opinion on how the movie could have delivered its intended message would have been more appropriate by the reviewer in this case. After this you can go into the lack of information the reviewer denoted or the abuses that the program has. This could also have been mentioned in the documentary so as to give it more "cred" (slang). Too much was given from a political stand point and not enough on the review. Had the article been an opinion regarding food stamps the above would have been more apporpriate. When you get into the political aspect of a review expect comments that were given.

  • joshboardfox5

    Mark: That's a valid complaint. As I stated in the review, this movie wasn't a well done documentary. Jon Stewart said on his show the other day "These two women made a very important movie that everyone should see." Well, here's what I say in my reviews. How interested was I watching it? How interested will people be watching it? It's why I didn't want to see Schindler's List, which drove my Jewish grandmother crazy. I just couldn't see how that would be "entertaining" (it was). This movie wasn't a strong "documentary." Now, when I reviewed two documentaries this year (Searching for Sugar Man and The Imposter), I said how wonderful and entertaining they were, but…they kind of lied in the narrative. Just as Catfish did a few years ago, and Exit Through the Gift Shop. I don't like documentaries doing that, just to toy with a viewers emotions — but that doesn't mean I disliked it. This movie STILL got two stars from me, because it held my interest most of the time. It was hardly good journalism from the filmmakers, though. I saw no outrage on their part. None what so ever. At least when Michael Moore gets mad…he is in their face with his microphone, shouting and screaming.

  • joshboardfox5

    Regarding the "attempts at humor"…the guilt of buying a $5 popcorn at this movie, a girl named Tremonica, and a guy with braces and nice teeth — who will have no food for his nice teeth to bite into.

  • Mark

    I guess in my having read the title of the documentary and the first line or two the last thing I was looking for was humor which is why I probably either overlooked it or didnt find it funny. Many people on food stamps truly need it and MANY abuse it that goes without saying. In the future I will be looking for you to both review the documentary AND provide your political opinion on the subject matter. Do be prepared for more than the ususal amount of criticisms however. And, when providing your opinion on political subject matters an/or documentaries I would suggest to provide a little more facts and be somewhat cognizant on the sensititivity of the matter. Not at all a problem with criticizing the issue or providing your opinion (with facts to back it up) especially when facts are left out.
    One of the things you should have asked was "how factual and non-biased is this documentary?" and "what information did they leave out that should also be noted?". Then you could have provided the information that was left out. That would have maded for a much better review. Thanks for answering.

  • joshboardfox5

    In regards to tyler above — that's a guy named Scott — a middle eastern dude that I'm suing right now. He uses different names posting negative things (you can always tell because he usually writes in broken English).
    Mark — Here's a better way to explain my point. There was a documentary about five years ago called "Bigger, Stronger, Faster." My girlfriend wanted to see it, and I couldn't figure out why. It was a documentary about steroids. What could possibly be interesting about that? Well, it was one of the most fun times at the movie all year. He didn't just cover the usual suspects (Barry Bonds, Schwarzenegger), he made it personal — talking about two weight lifting brothers that take steroids. Also, it wasn't just a bunch of doctors telling us "Steroids are bad!" (I typed that in the South Park teacher voice). Doctors said the jury is still out, and they really don't know. I found that much more interesting. Now, you come away after watching that, wondering why anybody would take them. Yet it was informative. Whereas this documentary doesn't get angry enough at the problem, isn't interesting enough or different, to warrant a higher review. Now…Morgan Spurlock, who did Super Size Me, had a documentary last year called POMM Presents the Greatest Movie Ever Sold. It was supposedly about movie companies that get product placement and make money that way. Great topic. Yet, Morgan made this movie ALL about HIMSELF, and trying to get his documentary financed. When I interviewed him, I gave him crap about that. I told him some of the history of when product placement first started. He said "Yeah…I know those stories, and have them in the DVD, but…." He couldn't really answer me as to why he made the movie all about him and his plight in trying to get a documentary financed. When he could've easily done both. He did it well in Super Size Me.

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