Written and Directed by Jon Favreau.
Starring Jon Favreau, Sofie Vergara, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Emjay Anthony, John Leguizamo, Dustin Hoffman and Oliver Platt.
After losing his job at a popular Los Angeles restaurant, a chef reconnects with his food, as well as his estranged family, through his new food truck.
Written, directed and starring John Favreau, Chef is a true return to indie form by the man who brought us Swingers and Made. It is a quaint, little film that begs to be seen.
The film begins with Carl Casper (Favreau), who is working as head chef at a prestigious restaurant in Los Angeles. Upon being forced by his boss to stick to the rigid confines of their trusted menu, renowned food critic Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt) blasts Casper’s lack of perceived inspiration with a ruthless internet review that attacks not only his cooking but also the man himself.
Unable to manage the blow to his ego, and newly armed with the forces of Twitter (thanks to his son Percy played by Emjay Anthony), Casper opens a virtual battle with the critic that quickly escalates into a train wreck internet-meltdown of epic proportions which ultimately leads to his getting fired. While the above portion of the film is genuinely entertaining -and clearly necessary to the plot- it’s only after Favreau’s character is let go from his job that Chef really begins to hit its stride. Jobless, Casper heads back to his native hometown of Miami, where his ex-wife’s former husband gifts him a truck (ripe for remodeling). The bulk of the remainder of the film follows him and his mates on a cross-country life-altering journey of sorts.
While the film is carried by Favreau’s ever-present charm, Chef features a well-rounded cast, all of whom turn in generally nice performances. Scarlett Johansson creates a warm hipster as Molly while John Leguizamo shines as food truck Sous-chef to Casper, whom he appropriately nicknames “El-jefe.” Sofía Vergara and Oliver Platt also both deliver as the ex-wife and snobby food critic, respectively. It would have been nice to see a bit more screen time devoted to the always-reliable Bobby Cannavale and Dustin Hoffman, but that’s a statement more out of personal preference than story practicality.
Chef is one of those films that subtly takes hold of its audience, much to the credit of Favreau’s script, which provides a perfect blueprint to tell his story. On its surface the film is a celebration of food, music and culture, while underneath it is a more serious story about a father reconnecting with his estranged son. The film delivers several memorable father-and-son moments between Casper and the young Percy, including his sipping his dad’s beer and later witnessing, but not quite understanding, a sing-along of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing.” The resulting onscreen dynamic between Favreau and relative newcomer Anthony is believable and heartwarming.
Chef is peppered with just the right amount of gentle comedy as well as deeper drama, and feels far shorter than its 114-minute runtime. The ending of the film was slightly cliché but still leaves its audience feeling nonetheless satisfied. Chef is certainly worth the watch.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
William Fanelli is contributor to Flickering Myth – You can follow him on Twitter