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Film Review: 86ED

Director J.J. Hendricks captures 42 Grams former chef Jacob Bickelhaupt’s comeback after a domestic violence event in 2017 that cost Bickelhaupt his ability to continue his culinary career in Chicago. Hendricks interviews his wife, Nadia and Bickelhaupt’s friends as Bickelhaupt pursues a fresh start in Colorado.

There is no question that Bickelhaupt is passionate about food. In fact, a good portion of the documentary illustrates Bickelhaupt’s ability as a chef. The beautiful photography of food (a.k.a. “food porn”) featured in the film will have audiences' mouths watering. His joy for food feels infectious as he discusses the minutiae of his process.

The documentary focuses on healing - both internally and with help from friends and family. Even though Bickelhaupt has reached a three year mark in sobriety, he still faces an onslaught of judgement from social media. Hendricks explores how the backlash affects not only Bickelhaupt but anyone associated with him including his wife and people in Colorado, all of whom knew him as he was trying to heal.

The documentary is light on interviews and the interviews feel largely unedited. The interview takes are long, there is no cut away from an interviewee trailing a bit off topic. In that way it feels organic, but perhaps could find strength in more judicious editing. The interviews feel limited. There is no interview with the police officers or lawyers involved with Bickelhaupt’s case, there is no interview of Alexa, Bickelhaupt’s ex-wife and the victim of the incident, and there is no psychologist interview offering insight on PTSD or what leads to domestic violence.

The thesis of the piece seems to be second chances and an examination of the possible downside to “cancel culture.” It is more of an emotional growth journey than a deeper examination of how domestic violence affects a person. The reality of the situation from Bickelhaupt’s perspective is that he made a one-time horrible mistake for which he faces for the rest of his life. As far as the video expresses, he had an addiction problem that lead to a one-time event, and he is not a repeat offender.

To make such a grievous singular mistake is tragic, horrifically human, and a concept worth reflecting over. Perhaps there is no right answer, nothing that will completely serve as a salve. But Bickelhaupt is putting in the work to be a better person through sobriety, through love, and through friendship. Viewers are left to wonder if his ex, Alexa, a restaurant GM, who was also responsible with Bickelhaupt for the success of 42 Grams, had as much success healing.

86ED won the Special Jury Award at LAFA in September 2021.

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