“it’s really in the organized chaos of it all that The Bear finds its unique identity”
The Bear review by Jennifer AJ
When a tragedy strikes in his family, a talented fine-dining chef must return home to take care of their family sandwich shop in Chicago. The Emmy-nominated Hulu series is a frenzied look inside the cutthroat world of the dining industry, the perils faced by American small businesses, as well as an exploration of the stages of grief.
The Bear revolves around Carmy (Jeremy Allen White), a chef who returns to Chicago to run The Beef, the family’s Italian beef sandwich shop, following his brother Michael’s suicide. There, he buttheads with the current manager Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) over how to run the shop, a renowned establishment plagued with mounting debts, a disorganised kitchen and an unruly staff.
The first impression this series gives is the undeniable chaotic energy. The Bear has been hailed as an accurate representation of real-world restaurant business dynamics, at least in America. If you’ve seen Hell’s Kitchen, that’s basically every episode of The Bear, only with more dramatization and quirky characters. The camera captures the urgency of the moment with its many tight shots and frantic editing. Kitchen staff regularly shout to each other whilst cramped in a stuffy space full of piping hot ingredients while waiting customers do their best to add to the pressure. Told mostly through Carmy’s French-cuisine trained eye, it becomes almost like a crime scene how messy The Beef’s production line looks to him.
Beautifully shot, the visuals have a certain rhythm to them. When things move away from the kitchen’s frenzy, the show balances things out with an atmospheric, almost contemplative vibe. Set against the backdrop of Chicago’s urban landscape, where the series was shot on location, the city becomes almost like a character unto itself.
The centre of this world is the brilliant but struggling Carmy, played perfectly by Jeremy Allen White. Carmy is a man of a few words, with so much going on inside. White injects him with coolness just by sheer presence. He doesn’t get tons of dialogue - that’s for his surrounding characters to do - but you can always see in his eyes the reaction to what’s happening. Carmy’s clean-cut fashion - crisp white tee, battered denims, greasy but gorgeous hair - has also received tons of attention. Men’s fashion doesn’t get talked about as much as women’s, so something clearly resonates here. His dynamic with sous chef Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) is the heart of the show, portraying a genuine platonic relationship that constantly peels the layer for more depth as things move along. Their push-and-pull grow them both, an enjoyable thing to watch.
But it’s really in the organized chaos of it all that The Bear finds its unique identity. It captures the harsh reality of modern dining businesses: mountains of bills, maintenance, keeping staff in order, ever-changing marketing tools, not to mention making sure you comply with a long list of regulations - all too real struggles that don’t usually get depicted this viscerally. That’s why it’s puzzling that this show is categorized under “Comedy”. There’s nothing funny about the subject matter or their handling of it. Designation aside, The Bear is indeed an exquisite treat of a finely put together look at the modern culinary landscape.
Published on June 29th, 2023. Written by Jennifer Ariesta for Television Heaven.