Pressure Cooker Reviews
However it's not clear if the film hopes to be mostly about the no-nonsense commitment of Wilma Stephenson, the culinary arts instructor, or the students who are chasing their dreams to varying extents through the skills she inculcates in them. As such, there's little doubt about the outcome. Fortunately, it's interesting watching the journey.
We know very little about the students outside of the class. One is a talented football player who sees culinary arts as a good fallback option if his dreams of a sports career don't pan out. One is a cheerleader and National Honor Society member. One is an immigrant from Africa with a difficult family & home life. Each have expectations of varying degrees in their family. But we don't learn much about the students themselves. What are their dreams - beyond escaping their inner-city lives? What do they like to do? Who do they hang out with? How are they viewed by their peers? How do they interact with their neighborhood communities? We know none of this.
If the film is about the teacher, we know very little about her other than that she is committed to her students and is often abrasive and demanding. She wears a wedding ring but we know nothing about her home life. She leads her students in prayer but we know nothing about her spiritual life. There's a pool party for her students, and we're not clear if this is her home or somewhere else. She is very flat as a character, which is saying a lot considering the size of the personality that the camera conveys to us.
I found it interesting that there is a scene of one of the students in a church setting. She's part of the community as they pray for her future. She sings with the praise band, but doesn't seem particularly enthusiastic. It felt very staged and inauthentic. What is the role that faith plays in her life, or the life of her teacher (the only two characters that seem to acknowledge God in any fashion)? What is the faith life of the young woman who immigrated from Africa? If you're not going to answer these questions, why include pieces of them in the film?
Other mismatched elements in the film include the whole senior-prom sub-plot. It contributed nothing to the film or to our understanding of the students. They seemed to go through the motions (or not go through them) without any real interest in them.
Still, you cheer for the kids. You cheer for them knowing that they're going to be successful, at least within the parameters of this film. And you cheer for their futures, with as little idea about what they might hold as the students themselves. But it was fascinating to watch this one small facet of their lives, and pray that it is a portent of great things to come.