Chef

Chef photo starrating-4andahalfstars.jpgChef is about following your passions. I love the fact that writer/director/star Jon Favreau still has time for these pet projects. An executive chef drama doesn’t exactly scream mainstream Hollywood blockbuster.  Jon Favreau started out writing more intimate ventures in the beginning of his career. Swingers is a classic to people of a certain generation. After Jon Favreau’s achievement directing Iron Man 1 & 2, it would seem sensible to continue with big budget Hollywood fare. Let’s face it, that is where the money is. Perhaps it was the middling success of Cowboys & Aliens that prompted this return to his roots. The narrative thrust could easily be taken as a metaphor for his own life.  Chef is clearly a personal project. It concerns rekindling your lust for life. Certainly making a living doing what you genuinely love, but also placing an emphasis on things that matter like family.

When Ramsey Michel, an important food blogger announces his visit to a popular LA eatery, head chef Carl Caspar sees it as his opportunity to get creative and dazzle him with new creations. But restaurant owner Riva (Dustin Hoffman) will have none of it. He wants to rely on their old standbys, dishes that have long been a staple of the popular restaurant. Carl follows orders. The result gets a nasty review that reads more like a personal attack. It’s interesting to note that there is a subtlety to this critic character portrayed by Oliver Platt. We’re obviously meant to not like him. However his negative review is borne out of a frustrated disappointment from eating uninspired cuisine. In truth, Ramsey Michel deeply believes chef Carl to be talented. Anyways, the bad experience has repercussions. Carl is inspired to make some changes in his life.

You need not be a foodie to appreciate the merits of Chef. The film was surely made by people who appreciate culinary delights, but this passion translates on screen to the regular movie-goer. One of the things that Chef gets really right has nothing to do with food at all. Our digital media age and the power of social networks, in particular Twitter, is perfectly represented. Carl’s feud with the aforementioned food critic begins online. The ability for news to travel throughout the Internet and go viral, that is spread in seconds to the masses, is exploited with humorous results. Jon Favreau is sort of an innocent and his ignorance to the service is humorously explained by his tech savvy son. His awkwardness to the technology and its effect on his business are fun to watch. Emjay Anthony’s performance as the smart tyke is refreshing. He’s precocious but not in an annoying way.

And then of course there’s the food. Chef is the latest in a long line of food porn movies. I’m talking Babette’s Feast (1987), Like Water for Chocolate (1992), Big Night (1996), Ratatouille (2007) Julie & Julia (2009). Movies that lovingly present the beauty of food so that it elicits a physical reaction from an audience. The creations are so seductive you feel as though you could almost taste them. If I need to further my case, right after seeing this movie, I felt compelled to visit La Bodeguita Del Medio, a local hangout in Palo Alto and ordered the Cuban sandwich, one of many dishes highlighted. I suggest going to the movie hungry because you will want to eat immediately after, even on a full stomach. If there’s a quibble, it’s that his success all comes too easily. I would’ve preferred a bit more conflict. The story doesn’t yield many surprises. The script encourages one to do what they love. Good luck will follow. Maybe not pursuing what we truly love is motivated by a fear of failure. Chef is a dear statement from Jon Favreau and I loved what he was putting down. It’s a unique picture, particularly for the Summer. We need more movies like this. You should seek it out. You’ll be glad you did.

05-17-14

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23 Responses to “Chef”

  1. Everybody in this was so charming, that I found it hard to care about any problems I may have had with its length. Good review Mark.

  2. Coming to AmazonPrime today are at least the first 3 of 4 seasons of HBO’s TREME – food porn for the ages 🙂

  3. Have you seen Patisserie Coin de Rue – Japanese film – I reviewed back in 2012. Very well made film and beautiful desserts to ogle. Nice review on Chef – so far, it is not playing in Sarasota – but I will see it when I can.

  4. Victor De Leon Says:

    Nice review, Mark. Can’t wait to see this. It is playing at my local indie theater here in Rochester. So stoked now after reading your review. Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

  5. I’m so excited for this one. Love the simple premise and, of course, the cast.

  6. I’m looking forward to this one. Doesn’t come out in UK for another month but there has been a really positive response.

  7. Great to hear! I look forward to this a lot, seeing it tomorrow when I get off work and I’ll be sure to not eat anything beforehand! 🙂

    And I totally agree, it’s great to see Favreau still doing things like this in the midst of his blockbuster fame

  8. I didn’t know what I was gonna get from seeing this film. I love watching Top Chef and Hell’s Kitchen, so I love food shows. This really surprised me. The food looked so good, and the movie was very good. Worth the watch. And yes, having a Cuban sandwich afterwards, is a great idea. 4 1/2 stars from me.

  9. I’m glad to see Favreau get back to his roots. Still need to see Chef. I’ve heard many good things. Probably the most important advice I’ve received is not to see it hungry haha. Based on your desire to eat one of the film’s dishes afterward, I’m thinking that’s sound advice. Looking forward to checking this out. I totally agree that the summer needs more intimate pictures like Chef.

  10. The presentation of food certainly deserves a big, “Wow.” So does much of the rest of this flick. Certainly very, very worth watching.

  11. garylee828 Says:

    Good review, Mark! 🙂

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