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‘Love, Charlie’ review: Documentary about rise and fall of a celebrity chef

Love, Charlie gives a glimpse into the personality of its subject in its opening seconds. Chef Charlie Trotter asks the interviewer to turn off the camera so he can make a statement off the record. He then states how the restaurant business would be the best if not for the customers and employees. Just to underscore he is not joking, he repeats that the comment is off the record.

The documentary charts Trotter’s early life through his decision to become a chef and his untimely death. An important part of Love, Charlie is the relationship between the eventual celebrity chef and his father. This is extremely well developed. What is initially just background information about the elder Trotter leads into his son’s motivations. Themes of control and learning from the past come up often.

Love, Charlie also does an excellent job of painting a picture of who Trotter really was. The first part focuses on the younger man who went by “Chuck”. This laid back more fun loving person would soon morph into the angrier and more obsessive “Charlie”. The film charts this gradual progression effectively through interviews. Audiences will get the sense of watching a person change over time.

It is hard not to feel like the documentary is a little full of itself at times. A part of it is due to interviews with Trotter who is constantly comparing himself to a musician or artist. While there is truth to what he is saying, the lack of modesty can be overbearing. The interviewees can be just as bad. Some of the people are so pretentious, it sometimes feels like watching a spoof instead of a serious biography.

Love, Charlie  is an odd mix of celebrity worship and unflinching biography. While it is a well put together character study, some of the participants seem intent on keeping people at arm’s length. The end result is a comprehensive look that is equal parts interesting and frustrating.

Love, Charlie comes to theaters and digital November 18

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