It’s all knishes and kibitzing in “Lunch,” Donna Kanter’s charming documentary about a Hollywood institution more enduring than most sitcoms.
Every other Wednesday for 40 years a bunch of legendary comedy writers and directors — whose career highlights alone would fill a showbiz encyclopedia — have been meeting for a prandial catch-up session. The location may change (currently it’sFactor’s Famous Deli), but the diners remain constant, give or take the odd family or medical event. And though the gathering usually kicks off with health updates — the so-called “organ recital” — these guys (and they are all guys) would rather not focus on hip-replacement humor.
Circling the table, Ms. Kanter listens while the likes of Sid Caesar, Carl Reiner and Gary Owens (the indispensable announcer of “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In”) nosh and natter. A twinkling Hal Kanter (the director’s father, who died last year), reflecting on the predominance of Jews in the comedy-writing game, reveals a mind as playful as the one that gave us frothy pleasures like “Move Over Darling” and “Blue Hawaii.” And though not everyone present is blessed with the director Arthur Hiller’s impressive white mane, the film’s exhibition of vibrant longevity is reason enough to celebrate.
Low-key and low-tech, “Lunch” coasts on the earned wisdom of pros who know how to work a room. Right up to the arrival of their separate checks.