Pressure Cooker - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Pressure Cooker Reviews

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February 19, 2015
The strength and determination of these kids was inspiring to me. The strength and determination of their teacher was just as inspiring. I would watch it again and I will definitely recommend this film!"Pressure Cooker" is a really easy doc to watch, full of humor and most importantly those compelling characters with compelling stories. Grausman and Becker appear to have only needed to be there with cameras to get a great film, but to their credit, it's well-edited, picking great moments to let their story shine.
June 28, 2014
Interesting documentary.
January 3, 2014
A bit like the classic documentary Hoop Dreams but with an imaginatively different setting. Just as good, and not half as long.
June 29, 2013
Awesome doc. Extremely heartfelt. Ms. Wilma Stephenson is truly an angel.
January 4, 2013
A fun documentary that gives me a little more hope in the world. It's great to see young people really ambitious to do something with their lives and finding ways to make it happen. I didn't feel completely engaged with the people, but it was very light-hearted and that's always appreciated.
November 28, 2012
(4/5) Better than it looks. It is about a culinary arts program in an inner city high school were the goal is to have students enter a competition to earn scholarships. A hard ass teacher tries to motivate a class full of inter city youth. "The movie's sense of inspiration is realistic. It never implies a future of glamour, only hard-won success." On netflix streaming.
Super Reviewer
September 10, 2012
Has this one in my Netflix queue for ages. Basically Spellbound for high school culinary students.
April 8, 2012
Just as good as "Mad Hot Ballroom"! The film follows just enough kids closely, and the tension/good guy wins ending is great. The teacher anti-hero makes me smile :)
April 7, 2012
This film is a documentary which follows the development of a group of Philly inner city culinary arts high school students. If you've ever wondered about the difference between the results an average teacher gets compared to a teacher that is fully invested and deeply cares about her students, this film will provide an answer. You don't need to be a foodie to appreciate this film. In fact, there's not a lot of technique that is passed on. Mostly, we catch a glimpse dreams dreamed and dreams realized. The final shot before the screen goes black is one that was the kind of ending that brings one's mind to somehow shout, "Whoa," and "Nice" at the same time.
½ March 21, 2012
What this film lacks in direction and tension it makes up for in the likeability of the three students that it focuses in (somewhat) on. This was an enjoyable film to watch.

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.
½ February 21, 2012
This lady reminds me of judge Judy.
½ September 29, 2011
I loved how this documentary wove together two story lines: the friendly competition among inner-city Philadelphia high schoolers and the tough love of Mrs. Stephenson, the culinary arts teacher & maternal figure to many of her students. It was well worth 99 minutes.
September 16, 2011
Good film, great story.
August 6, 2011
Great movie -- extraordinary teacher.
May 9, 2011
Shows the power of a teacher who expects a lot, and gives everything. In particular, she allows these kids to dream of a better future and takes them step by step on the path to pursue that dream.
May 8, 2011
While on a basic level this is essentially "Top Chef: High School," it's also much more. One part documentary truth mixed with a few parts Real World truthiness, it's moving in the same way "Hoop Dreams" was, and - like that movie - seems to be about everything all at once. Highly recommended. P.S. I desperately have to go to sleep now.
April 3, 2011
Nothing but love for these kids and their teacher. What an inspiration.
½ March 5, 2011
Proud of all the hard work these kids did. Wishing them all warmth....
February 19, 2011
Good story, but not a lot of edge and really no tension. The story exceeds the skills of the directors and editors who come off as very inexperienced. The center of the story is a magnificent, dedicated teacher but we learn very little about her. The story needed a timeline and greater focus, but the approach should do nothing to denigrate the success of the students, teacher and program.
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