Directed by Jon Favreau.
Starring Jon Favreau, Sofie Vergara, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Emjay Anthony, John Leguizamo, Dustin Hoffman and Oliver Platt.
A Chef stuck in a creative rut goes back to basic cooking after a very public breakdown, reconnecting with his son and family along the way.
Before you see Chef there should undoubtedly be a warning at the theatre that you ensure you have eaten before viewing this film. During parts of my viewing where some of the best looking ‘food porn’ was dished up by Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) it elicited a number of groans and moans throughout the cinema. People looked at their popcorn in disgust yearning for that which was on the screen.
Chef follows Carl Casper from a place where he is feeling downtrodden and stuck creatively due to his boss Riva’s (Dustin Hoffman) refusal to adjust his country club menu for something more exciting. After a scathing review from a top critic (Oliver Platt) Carl finds himself embroiled in a social media battle with the critic, eventually leading to a wounded Carl become an overnight YouTube sensation for his public breakdown.
He eventually takes his ex-wife (Sofie Vergara) up on her offer of buying an old food truck, getting back to basics and seliing a load of Cuban sandwiches as he drives his new found lease on life from Miami back to Los Angeles. With his former colleague Martin (John Leguizamo) and 10 year old son Percy (Emjay Anthony) joining him on his road to redemption, Carl tries to repair a broken and neglectful relationship with Percy through teaching him how to be a good chef.
It is very easy to draw parallels to Carl’s situation with Favreau’s and no doubt it was his own inspiration having directed and written as well as being the very thin skinned, Alpha male lead in Chef, having gone from the big blockbuster Iron Man films, the poorly reviewed Cowboys vs Aliens and now to this smaller scale vehicle, albeit one still filled with A list acting talent.
However unlike Favreau’s earlier work this lacks a lot of the absurdity that made him an early success. There are flashes, like Robert Downey Jr.’s one scene cameo as the ex-wife’s, ex-husband with a favouring for everyone wearing little plastic bags on their shoes. Other than that though this is a feel good movie, where the second half of the film Carl faces no hurdles and earlier mistakes are quickly forgotten.
The supporting cast do a good job in providing a lot of the laughs, John Leguizamo and Downey Jr. do well with the material they have and Hoffman is great for his part as the narcissistic owner who stifles Carl and is fully self-assured in his decisions. Scarlett Johansson is woefully underused and would definitely have brought more to the proceedings; alas schedule conflicts limited her to the films first half hour.
Chef has some clever aspects, the use of social media and the graphics displaying its effects on Carl’s business and life were enjoyable as is the food and humour. I’d without a doubt happily salivate over some of the dishes again, looking better than food on most cooking shows. However the film feels formulaic and its second half ends up being a bit of self-indulgence by Favreau, with more cheese than his Cuban Sandwiches but without any of the spice or flavour. Favreau believes in this movie and that was probably all that mattered.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★