Perhaps you’ve heard there aren’t enough movie roles for women. Melissa McCarthy notwithstanding, there are very few big-budget films where a lead woman gets to do more than romance a man or indulge in some kind of caper, and fewer non-melodrama/biopics where a lead can really display her acting chops. If Meryl Streep were 40 right now, what kind of film would she want to do?
I’m just going to leave this idea/treatment right here. Hollywood, you know where to find me.
THE FOOD CRITIC is a comedy about a 40ish “woman of a 1000 faces” who, fired from her job, seeks revenge on the responsible blogger…only to learn more than she bargained for.
Sequence 1: Our lead, Vera, eats at a lot of great food at a lot of fine restaurants…and in each one, she wears a slightly different disguise. As the head food critic at the New York Chronicle, Vera wears a variety of wigs, noses, hats – all being part of her job as a food critic that has to fool New York’s restauranteurs. Sometimes she eats alone, sometimes with a friend. One such friend is Betty, another 40-ish professional. We watch as snippets of Vera’s reviews appear in print and online on the Chronicle’s website. We watch her compose her reviews on her laptop in her pleasant Upper West Side apartment. Vera lives well, and seems happy.
Inciting incident: One day, Vera is in disguise at a restaurant when an older white man says “Vera!” No response. “Vera!” It turns out to be her boss, who sits down next to her and tells her not to worry about the disguise: she’s fired. The whole newspaper business is on life support, the boss explains, but the proximate cause is Joe Glutton and joeglutton.com, the most popular food-critic blogger. Joe Glutton “outed” Vera’s face as well as made fun of Vera’s snobbish, elitist writing in the New York Chronicle. Though Vera had responded by writing more informally and accessibly, it wasn’t enough. She’s fired.
Sequence 2: Vera wallows in her apartment, watching a spider make a web in the closet where she keeps her disguises. Vera’s friend Betty comes over. Betty, it turns out, is a detective with the NYPD. After a bit of back-and-forth, Vera makes it clear that she wants her old job back and some kind of revenge on Joe Glutton. She wants to sue him for libel and slander, but Joe Glutton is a big mystery: no one knows who he/she is or what he/she looks like. (And obviously, wordpress, where he hosts his blog, isn’t saying.) Betty says that she shouldn’t do this, but she’s been thinking about it and…what if there was a way for them to predict where Joe Glutton would be? Her COMSTAT software – the techniques by which Rudy Guiliani and Bill Bratton halved the NYC crime rate – has a way of predicting movements. Betty has an app on her phone, and she can get Vera the same app… As long as Vera doesn’t tell anyone, they can work together to find where Joe is going to be, based on where he was.
Sequence 3: Vera is back in disguise, and a slight spring has also returned to her step. Based on the last 10 restaurants that Joe reviewed, Joe seems to be heading to somewhere in Chelsea. Vera can’t be sure, but she tries a few places. She sits as close to the wall as she can and takes “selfies” that are actually photos of all the clientele. She does this in several places – two of them ask her to put her phone away. After a few days, new reviews appear, and along with the photos Vera and Betty have a photo-list of suspects. Betty gets suspended by the NYPD and Vera can no longer use COMSTAT. But by then, she thinks she’s narrowed down her list of potentials…
Sequence 4: Vera sits down rudely at a few diner’s tables, confronting a few people she believes to be Joe Glutton – by quoting liberally from his recent reviews. Blank faces. Vera even tries a woman. Several people say words to the effect of “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Later, as Vera reviews her notes in her phone, a waiter brings over a message scribbled on the back of a bill. “You found me. Let’s talk at the Gramercy Hotel tonight. I’ll be on the Mezzanine level from 8:00.”
She goes, only to learn that the Mezzanine level has been taken over by a cosplay convention. Vera is way out of her depth here, but she decides to have fun anyway. After a few hijinks and minor cases of mistaken identity, Vera takes off her own costume (really just a wig and nose) and lets herself dance with the better-looking men there. Finally a man approaches in a bird suit: “Okay, it’s me, Joe Glutton.” He apologizes for hurting her career, saying everyone has to destroy their heroes to get ahead. He also has an offer for her.
Sequence 5: Joe reminds Vera that a company called Lambert runs twelve of the most prestigious restaurants in the city. Joe suspects that Lambert is using some kind of substandard meat to make their meat dishes so good. Sounds like a job for the police…except Lambert has successfully avoided such problems in the past, always having enough proper meat on hand for inspectors. So he has a sting operation in mind that would build on their respective web followings…and maybe even restore Vera to glory.
Vera doesn’t want to do it; she still wants to sue him. And there’s a risk that she and Joe will be blackballed from all New York restaurants forever. But Betty persuades her that solving the bad meat problem is more important. Besides, if Betty plays this right, she can get partial credit for the sting and get back in good with the NYPD.
Sequence 6: And indeed, the sting goes successfully, without getting into all the Paul Newman-Robert Redford-like details here. Lambert goes down. Betty comes off suspension, and Vera’s online following becomes so strong that she fields offers from various New York papers.
Sequence 7: Joe suggests to Vera that they become Mr. and Mrs. Glutton and truly control food blogging, their endorsement sought on every new product and eatery. She says she can’t do that because people would think they were a couple. Joe says, well…okay, Joe is lonely. Vera is still displeased with him. Joe explains that the earlier problems were like a boy pulling a girl’s pigtails in grade school. She says those weren’t FDA-approved pigtails.
Sequence 8: The film ends with the new blog, Joe Glutton and Vera Voracious. And are they together or aren’t they? Well…