Famously, Buñuel threw a dinner party that skewered the anxieties of the upwardly mobile in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. In her dissection of the pampered class, Mijke de Jong, the director and cowriter of Stages, has a similar obsession with meals. The repast is prologue: Ex-spouses Martin (Musters) and Roos (De Brauw) meet at a series of expensive or exotic restaurants in Amsterdam to discuss what should be done about their troubled teenage son, Isaac (Koomen), prone to breaking into strangers’ homes and fondling his samurai sword.
Rather than food for thought, De Jong’s film—schematically divided into eight clamorous eatery encounters and near-silent scenes of Isaac in various states of maladjustment—chokes on its own dualism. Is the abundance of carpaccio to blame for a younger generation’s withdrawal? As each logorrheic culinary conversation (not just between the sparring exes but also their colleagues, relatives and dates)—shot in claustrophobic close-up, with Martin’s or Roos’s interlocuter frequently out of frame—segues to Isaac’s muteness, the evils of upper-middle-class adult narcissism are overshadowed by the offenses of filmmaking as simplistic sociology. Making matters worse, De Jong fails to follow through on her own convictions, instead offering a palate cleanser for an ending.