Pressure Cooker

3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Like most inspiring inner-city-school stories, Pressure Cooker (a real-life one) revolves around a fantastically rude teacher. Wilma Stephenson has a screech to wilt even the most headstrong North Philly teen; she’s an old-school disciplinarian who never got the memo about political correctness. When not calling them “lowlife punks,” Stephenson is teaching her kids culinary arts, very successfully, in a quest for thousands of dollars in college scholarships. The mantras that come out of her mouth take on the tenor of life advice: “Get your brain upscale!” and “That’s so ghetto!” (about a shoddily prepared dish) represent the harsh wisdom that can come only from one urban survivor to another.

A predictable crowd-pleaser, Pressure Cooker works best in Stephenson’s kitchen, where the martial browbeating has a purpose. Straying, like a good lefty doc does, into home territory, the film loses a little focus in the almost-cliché households of the students: strong-willed Erica, a guardian angel to her blind younger sister; hardworking African immigrant Fatoumata; and Tyree, a gentle giant of a football star who hopes to excel at slicing potatoes into tournées. At times, you wish the directors were more challenging of their premises; these graduating seniors are learning the value of precision, yes, but also, subtly, how to serve. Is that escape enough?



Release details

99 mins

Cast and crew

Jennifer Grausman, Mark Becker

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