Going the Distance

The best thing about The Bear, I think, is that it tries so hard. The writing alternates between brilliant and painful. (For examples of the former, see this monologue and basically anything Richie says.) The setting is rich and detailed, but also strangely empty. (Why do we never see any customers?) The filmmaking is boring in one episode and gutsy in another. (Episode 7 is one continuous shot set during the ten minutes before the lunch rush.) The one thing that is consistent is that Jeremy Allen White never stops looking like Rocky Balboa.

Maybe that’s enough. Maybe the unusual charm of the show comes from the fact that it feels like a film made by an MFA student on a shoe-string budget, the kind of film where no one gets paid, but pours their guts out anyway; where the cast and crew are basically the same people and craft services is someone’s mom dropping off chili. That scrappy vibe serves the show well because it’s also what the story is about—a restaurant that could be great but isn’t quite there yet. The Bear, The Beef, and Rocky all seem to have the same goal: to prove that, despite appearances, they’re not just some bum from the neighborhood.

UPDATE: I added some things to make my point more clear.

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