Austin Film Festival Review: "Last Week at Ed's"
A touching farewell to a neighborhood institution
By Richard Whittaker,
10:00AM, Thu. Oct. 31, 2019
Ed Blumstein opened Ed's Coffee Shop on Robertson Boulevard in 1960. Fifty-eight years later his daughter, Ada, turned the closed sign for the last time. It wasn't fancy, but it served a solid menu, and it was the kind of hole-in-the-wall place no one opens any more, and everyone misses when they're gone.
Kasdan and his wife and long-time collaborator Meg were regulars - two of many - who were hit hard by the announcement, but they were the ones who took the time and energy to make a documentary that is both a fly-on-the-wall record of the last week of operations, as well a memorial service. The regulars, many of whom had spent decades dining on their favorite sandwich or the turkey meatloaf (a house specialty) all have a story to tell of a changing neighborhood.
Of course gentrification plays a role. This is a neighborhood that went from being L.A.'s gay hub to being filled with overpriced baby boutiques, and there's not the space for a diner that serves a $10 breakfast plate. Yet the Kasdan aren't trying to serve up a polemical diatribe. Yes, the changing neighborhood is part of the story, but this isn't just any diner. It's the diner where Ed would give a meal to every hadluck story, and where generations of the same family would bus tables, where the cheap chairs felt as comfortable as your home couch.
It's a simple, touching story, and when Ada turns that sign it all comes back to the people who worked and ate there, and their memories, and what they do next. In a ingenious decision, the Kasdans keep everything within the diner. At the furthest, the camera goes out on to the sidewalk, stopping even before waiter Junior can step across the threshold of a neighboring business with a lunch order. It's the last week at Ed's, not a week in the life of the 400 block of North Robertson, and that delicate but forceful focus makes this story all the more heartfelt.
Last Week at Ed's