The Automat (2021)

The Automat (2021)

Delightfully edited and amusingly observed, The Automat gives you a fill of 20th-century nostalgia

7.5

Movie

United States of America
English
Documentary, Drama, History
2021
LISA HURWITZ
Carl Reiner, Colin Powell, Elliott Gould
79 min

What it's about

The 100-year story of the iconic restaurant chain Horn & Hardart, the inspiration for Starbucks, where generations of Americans ate and drank coffee together at communal tables. From the perspective of former customers, we watch a business climb to its peak success and then grapple with fast food in a forever changed America.

The take

The Automat is a charming documentary about the historic place it names—a spacious self-service cafeteria that fed thousands of people during a good part of the 20th century. Through nostalgic footage and delightful interviews with the likes of Mel Brooks, Howard Schultz, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, The Automat successfully convinces you that more than just some gimmick, it was a cultural landmark, a piece of Americana whose existence alone taught an entire generation integral values like democracy, diversity, and hard work. It’s also straight-up hilarious, especially when Brooks attempts to direct the film himself, or other subjects salivate as they recall the Automat’s unbeatable menu. It’s more anecdotal than academic, so if you’re looking for a sweet, sentimental, and simple watch, this is it.

Comments

Interesting, entertaining, upbeat & sweet.

Fond memories of the auto mat from my childhood.

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