Anyone that has a high appreciation of independent film loves Greta Gerwig. If you’ve seen one of her films, you’re smitten. It’s the little known fourth law of thermodynamics: If you witness Greta Gerwig perform onscreen, you will fall in love (there’s some other stuff about entropy and macroscopic systems, but it goes over my head). She’s a rare talent: Charming, ingratiating, magnetic and lovely to look at. Once you see a Greta Gerwig film, you will seek out any subsequent films that Greta Gerwig appears in, even if this unfortunately includes the upcoming Arthur. That is the raw power of her appeal.
It doesn’t mean you’ll like her films, however. She almost certainly will not save Arthur, and she doesn’t save The Dish & the Spoon from being another drab, slow-poking, over-indulgent acting exercise disguised as a film. But she is remarkable, and her co-star in the film, Olly Alexander, is nearly as winsome. It’s unfortunate that writer/director Alison Bagnall’s script didn’t give them much of a story with which to work.
In the opening scenes of The Dish & the Spoon, Greta Gerwig’s Rose is madly weeping gurbles in her car while driving in the rain toward Martha’s Vineyard. As we come to learn, her and her husband have broken up after she found out he slept with another woman, and Rose has decided to stay in her parents’ cape house and track down her husband’s mistress and confront her. However, she stumbles upon a British teenager, around 19-years-old, sleeping on the beach. She takes him back to her place, and for the next week, the two essentially play house. They take walks on beaches; they go on dates dressed as the opposite sex; they make Thanksgiving dinner; they fish; and they roam around the dreary beachside, poking inside of antique shops.
It’s very much like an actual courtship, but it’s pretend, of course. He’s too young; he lives in London; and she’s still in love with her husband. It’s a week away from reality. Make-believe. It’s very sweet, but despite the best efforts of Gerwig and Alexander, it’s not very affecting. The film is too drab, too sluggish. It meanders, taking in the rain and indulging in the talents of the cast, but it doesn’t really say anything or go anywhere. And if there’s little point to your movie, it at least ought to be entertaining, but Bagnall falls short in even that. What’s left are two remarkable performances with very little of note to perform. And while it’s always a pleasure to watch Gerwig act, The Dish & the Spoon is ultimately a frustrating and futile effort.