Director: Jon Favreau
Stars: Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Sofia Vergara, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr., Dustin Hoffman, Bobby Cannavale, Oliver Platt, Emjay Anthony
Chef Carl Casper (Favreau) is a divorced man who has a poor relationship with his son, but he works at a top class restaurant. When a reviewer (Platt) visits the restaurant, Casper is eager to create a new, unique menu for the occasion. However, this suggestion is shot down by the owner of the restaurant (Hoffman). After a poor review, Casper takes to Twitter to vent his frustration and soon becomes a viral sensation, although it does ultimately cost him his job. With his reputation tainted and at his lowest point he ends up buying a food truck and going on a road trip to salvage his love of cooking, and on the way he forms a bond with his son, Percy (Anthony).
Chef is a movie that I heard a lot of good things about earlier this year. Being a lover of food and movies it seems a good combination, and I did come out having had a good time but I feel that the structure of the film goes against the general theme.
I liked the beginning. Favreau presents Casper as a flawed individual who has one passion and devotes himself to it. The shots of food throughout the film are mouth-watering yet never overplayed to the extent that they feel indulgent. The concept of the blow-up on Twitter is a decent commentary on the relationship between creators and critics in the 21st Century and I feel that it provides a good cautionary tale on how to handle criticism and how to react to it, not just for chefs but for creators in general. However, the central point of the film is to not rest on your laurels but to try something that you have passion for, to find the thing that makes you happy and go after that even though it means taking a risk. And yet, the actual film itself is a very safe one. There aren’t any surprising twists, everything is structured in a way that makes it easy for the narrative to progress and it’s all tied up in a neat bow by the end.
While Chef Casper seems tired of cooking the same menu night after night, Favreau seems content with sticking to sentimentality to produce a film that is a soft, comforting movie. There’s nothing surprising here, so although it is enjoyable the theme seems at odds with the structure.
The acting is good, I thought Anthony stole the show as the film’s emotional heart. Leguizamo brought energy to the scenes he was in. I think more is made of Downey Jr’s cameo than there should be. It wasn’t fantastic, just a bit bizarre really and it’s not like he factored into the greater plot. A lot of the characters seemed to be there to service the plot actually, like Molly (Johansson), who seemed to be an important part of Casper’s life but then disappeared from the film.
So, that’s Chef. A decent film that is a good for comfort but it doesn’t take any risks.