Pressure Cooker

Not all high school seniors only appreciate Fritos and Cheetos

REVIEW "Some of you will not remain. Whatever you heard, it is five times worse," announces the ruthless but deeply well-intentioned culinary arts teacher Mrs. Stephenson. It's the first day of the class she teaches at a high school in an underprivileged area of Philadelphia. Pressure Cooker focuses on three seniors who are hardworking chefs-in-training, all chasing the generous scholarships that success in a final competition would award them. Two of them are desperate for an economic leg up and physical escape: Fatoumata is an African immigrant who is disciplined and grateful for the opportunities the U.S. has offered her so far, but in order to realize her career goals she must escape the overbearing hand of her father. Erica, an amiable cheerleader who cares for her blind sister and laughs good-naturedly at her friends' undeveloped palates — they can only appreciate Fritos and Cheetos — also cannot escape stifling familial expectations without assistance. The third, Tyree, is a football star when not sharpening his cooking skills. The high-stakes drama in the kitchen-cum-classroom is entertaining enough — particularly Mrs. Stephenson's hilarious shouting and encouragement masked as jeering — but it is the homelife struggle of the subjects that makes this story worthwhile.

PRESSURE COOKER opens Fri/21 in Bay Area theaters.

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