Dinner With The Alchemist

Dinner With The Alchemist is a movie best viewed knowing as little as possible beforehand. Don’t watch the trailer, look at the poster, and especially avoid any plot synopsis that might be available to peruse. Allowing this movie to unfurl its universe without preconceived notions will set the stage for the surprising plot twists and turns and unleash the full potential of the characters’ engrossing lives. The collision of these elements will then cast a hypnotic, magical spell that lingers long after the credits roll. For this to happen with spoiling as little as possible, here is the one thing that matters- Dinner With The Alchemist is a mesmerizing film with an engaging mystery, beautiful production design, and exceptional acting.

..serial killings of several ladies of the evening throughout the French Quarter of New Orleans…”

Kevin Good’s first feature-length movie is a mystery-thriller following the police as they investigate the serial killings of several ladies of the evening throughout the French Quarter of New Orleans during the early 1900s. This leads inspectors Jenkins (Clayton Farris) and McMurphy (Regen Wilson) to the voodoo shop owned by Marie Laveau (Dionne Audain) and her niece Louise (Marly Chaudry). The murders also dovetail with the arrival of high-rolling Frenchman Jaques St. Germain (Dan Istrate) and the preparations Madame Catharine (Tamara Johnson) and her employees Mary (Megan Graves), Abigail (Jenna St. John), Chloe (Jenny Donovan), and Elise (Kristin Rogers) take to protect themselves in case they become targets.

Good, along with his wife, Jenna St. John, have crafted an intense little thriller with really unique, realistic characters. Everyone, no matter how small a player, has a clear goal they want to achieve, and the ending ensures no loose threads. The dialogue comes across as natural, and it never devolves into an exposition dump, despite the complexity, in a New Orleans where magic is real. That kind of brilliant writing only comes from hard work, dedication to the story, and a clear eye for detail. Gus Soudah’s cinematography is elegant, providing a rich, deep tapestry of colors and light in each scene so that every frame is beautiful to behold. Good keeps everything moving along swiftly, so there is never a dull moment. The few action scenes throughout are exciting, and a real sense of magic permeates everything. Erin Goldstein and Candice Bloch’s art and production design infuse the props and buildings with the world’s magical sensibilities to fully immerse the audience in a cityscape that is strange, not quite right, yet hauntingly familiar.

“…a mesmerizing film with an engaging mystery, beautiful production design, and exceptional acting.”

The acting is just as good. Dan Istrate is charismatic and unflappable as the immaculate Germain. Graves is disarmingly sweet and sincere as the orphaned Mary, who finds herself thrust into a most unwanted job. As the prostitutes, St. John, Donovan, and Rogers are all excellent as women who know they are looked down upon but provide a much needed and often used service for their clientele. As the owner of the brothel, Johnson is a lot of fun, offering some needed moments of levity without undercutting the dramatic tension. However, this is Dionne Audain’s movie, and she gives the performance of her career. She has been acting for over thirteen years and has appeared in several major TV shows and movies. She commands the screen with authority and wins the audience to her side easily.

If there is a nitpick to be had, it is that the mystery of the serial killer’s identity is quickly figured out. That is a bit of a letdown, but the reasons the person (or persons) involved are doing the killing is fascinating and pays off nicely by the end.

Dinner With The Alchemist is an outstanding movie that doesn’t take a misstep. Clearly made with love and close attention to detail, the acting is magnetic, the mystery intriguing, and the character arcs entrancing. A bewitching, spellbinding watch that everyone would do well to experience as soon as possible.

Dinner With The Alchemist (2018) Directed by Kevin Good. Written by Jenna St. John. Starring Dionne Audain, Dan Istrate, Clayton Farris, Regen Wilson, Jenna St. John, Marly Chaudry, Tamara Johnson, Megan Graves, Jenny Donovan, Kristin Rogers.

Grade: A

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