HEY BARTENDER (2012)
Running Time: 92 mins. Rating: x Stars/5 Stars
MPAA Rating: NR
Director: Douglas Tirola
Distributor: 4th Row Films
You can wait on the edge of your seat for someone in one of the cocktail bars to say, “I could have had a V-8,” but you will tarry in vain. Everyone in this documentary is having such a great time that you wonder why anyone would stay home and watch TV when they could be going to a place where everybody knows your name. HEY BARTENDER is Douglas Tirola’s look at the current renaissance in cocktail bars, in locations you’d expect to find in some of the posh areas of city like New York’s Upper East Side or Basin Street in New Orleans. These are not the kinds of establishments that would attract the “whiskey and beer chaser” crowd, if you’ll pardon my snobbery, but those in which the servers are having as good a time as the patrons. Think of Tom Cruise’s role in Roger Donaldson’s 1988 treat COCKTAIL.
While HEY BARTENDER is lovingly edited with some nifty close-ups of bartenders dishing out drinks of lavish color that would be the envy of my high-school chemistry teacher, Tirola focuses principally on a handful of mixologists, people whose deftness with the silver shaker allows elixirs to spring forth to such an extent that Triola might be accused of sadism for allowing those of us in our movie seats to look but not touch. Don’t be surprised if the folks attending the film forget about going home right after the show and instead head to their local cocktail bar where they will stay until three or four or even five a.m. like the rest of the crowds.
Steve Schneider (playing himself) is one of the stars. He is seen as an apprentice at the hot New York cocktail bar called Employees Only, which is named World’s Best Bar at the annual Tale of the Cocktail gathering in New Orleans, where 22 awards are given out in a ceremony not unlike the Academy Awards. The bar, whose address is not given (it’s at 510 Hudson Street in West Village), is manned by Steve, who describes the serious, almost fatal injury he received just before he was to head to Afghanistan as a Marine, where he had turned down the option of going to Hawaii because he could not let his Mideast bound buddies down. Steve ‘Carpi’ Carpentiere, by contrast is sedate when compared to the others, is the owner of Dunville’s in Westport, Connecticut. He travels to the New Orleans shindig hoping to learn something that will keep his bar going during recessionary times.
Tirola employs archival film dating back to 1890, noting that with the arrival of Prohibition some bartenders, wiped out in the States, went to Cuba and elsewhere to practice their craft. Through a succession of interviews including one with a major writer of the New York Times, another with Time Out NY, and still more with other media, we see that director Tirola may be interested in the idea of the cocktail but is more into giving us a picture of an American subculture that might give Taliban members heart attacks but would have us thankful that in our own country, exciting people who might have made careers in Hollywood given their talent in wowing the crowds are at the film’s center. This is their story, and it’s one to arouse the envy of everyone from accountants to lawyers, finance people and insurance agents. The doc is an original.
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