The Treat: Filmmaker John Hamburg on FX’s ‘The Bear’

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“‘The Bear’ really has inspired me to just go deeper in my own work and not be afraid of taking certain chances,” says director John Hamburg. Courtesy of Monty Brinton/CBS/Netflix.

Director, writer, and producer John Hamburg, whose credits include “Zoolander,” “Meet the Parents,” and the new Netflix comedy feature “Me Time,” is in awe of   “The Bear.” Now streaming on Hulu, the show’s singular style is inspiring the director to take more chances in his own work.

In the series, Carmen 'Carmy' Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White) is a four star chef who moves back home to take over his family’s sandwich shop in Chicago following his brother’s sudden death. He runs the struggling business alongside a chaotic crew that ultimately becomes his family, while dealing with trauma, grief, addiction, debt and redemption. 

The show’s 30-minute episodes highlight the kinetic pace of a kitchen and contrast that energy with quieter contemplative moments. The show has been met with acclaim from viewers and critics alike, with The Guardian’s TV critic Barbara Ellen calling it a “chef’s kiss,” while Empire’s John Nugent, writes, “The Bear’s high emotional intelligence, incredible writing and rich performances makes it a standout on the menu.”

I knew very little about [“The Bear”] coming in, which is probably the best way to watch movies or TV. And from moment one, I was just blown away by the style of directing. This kind of kinetic energy reminded me of “Uncut Gems,” one of my favorite recent movies, where it's so tense, it's almost hard to watch. The acting is unbelievable. It just feels so real. It's so funny and deep and soulful and human. 

What the director and writer Chris Storer does, it's not just all played at this kinetic pace. He slows down in other moments and other episodes, and holds on these long takes, long monologues beautifully played by Jeremy Allen White and Ebon Moss-Bachrach. 

The main character, Carmy, goes to an Al-Anon meeting and does a five minute monologue, talking about his life. That's totally different. It's just slow and something you don't see that often. Probably on normal television, you might go, “We can't let the audience sit there and watch this guy do a monologue for five minutes,” but these creators had the courage of their convictions to do it, and it's humane, beautiful and emotional.

I'm not a chef, but I have good friends who are high-level chefs, so I've seen that world a little bit, and I feel like this is one of the first things that truly captures what it's like to be in a kitchen and what that life is like

I wrestle with professional jealousy sometimes, like, “Oh my god, I could never do anything that good,” but then I try to turn it into inspiration. “The Bear” really has inspired me to just go deeper in my own work and not be afraid of taking certain chances, stylistically, and the way they use music. The whole thing is — this is really cheesy — but a “chef's kiss.” 



Rebecca Mooney