Chef (2014)

There’s a lot to like about Chef. First of all, it is great film if you are someone who likes to cook and enjoy the food experience in all its infinite variations. There’s even a term called food porn used by aficionados of movies about cooking and great food.

It is a buddy film. It is a road film. It is a film that without being about sports – has the likeable ‘sporting motif’ of a successful guy whose career ran off the rails, but he gets his shit together.

Besides the food, there’s also great eye candy. Sofia Vergara and Scarlett Johansson are on hand to deliver some visual thrills.

For the ladies, there’s Bobby Cannavale and Robert Downey Jr. Dustin Hoffman has a couple of sharp scenes too.

Casper: Are you threatening to fire me? Hoffman as Riva (the restaurant owner: No, I'm just telling you what I am prepared to do if you don't cook my menu!

Casper: Are you threatening to fire me?
Hoffman as Riva (the restaurant owner): No, I’m just telling you what I am prepared to do if you don’t cook my menu!

And there’s a villain – the food blogger/critic Ramsey Michel played by Oliver Platt who is currently on your TV screens in Fargo.

The film  was directed and written by Jon Favreau who currently has 60 acting credits, 19 Directing credits, and he’s produced 17 films and TV series; so certainly we can say that he is an experienced hand. He began his acting career way back in 92, but I think I first became aware of him in The Replacements. He was the player who Gene Hackman, playing the head coach of a pro football team, told Favreau’s character, Daniel Bateman – “Get me the ball!”

I think this film has tremendous energy as well as terrific pacing. Something happens in every scene. Even when a father and son have to have a heart to heart, or when a once-married couple have to discuss things – then we might get a slight slow down – but the even those scenes are visually interesting.

In a nutshell – the film is about a Head Chef in a prime LA restaurant who chooses to walk away rather than compromise his cooking principles  – in short, his job is history. He’s been ripped by a savage review and then he took the fight to the internet and social networks. His tweets blew up and when the critic came into the restaurant and the two of them had it out – the videos made with cell phones of this epic verbal shootout went online on YouTube and yes, the videos went viral.

So Chef Carl Casper is now out of work, and kind of a pariah in LA’s restaurant industry. Offers aren’t coming in, and phone calls aren’t being returned. He’s facing desperate times.

There’s your set up.

You're not happy cooking for someone else...

You’re not happy cooking for someone else…

Favreau as Casper, is on-screen virtually throughout. He is great as the guy whose world has come crashing down around him. He carries the film. But he’s not alone – John Leguizamo is marvelous as one of his chefs. The film gives a ton of screen time, and many of the most heartfelt scenes to young Emjay Anthony who is 11 years old, and plays Percy, Casper’s son.

As I said, there’s a lot to like, including the brilliant shot making of the food preparation. The music is excellent, and you won’t be disappointed by either Vergara’s or Johansson’s performances.

Leguizamo adds his own kind of spice

Leguizamo adds his own kind of spice

Whether Casper is preparing a pasta dish to share with Johansson, or carne asada, or the best looking grilled cheese sandwich you’ve ever seen, the food thrills are non-stop. The road show aspects finds us in the Little Havana section of Miami where they do a block-long lines business with cubano sandwiches, and then Austin, Texas, where they serve the signature smoked brisket sandwiches.

I’ll rate the film at four-point two five, and call it delicious, as well as a must-see. The film lacks only the element of surprise as it doesn’t stray from the strict formula of a successful guy who ends up jobless then turns his ragtag operation into a howling success. But even with that, the film is still wonderful.

As Bobby Cannavale says to Favreau’s Casper – You’re trending now bro…

Casper: Do you know how many people are reading this (his tweet)? Tony: You;'re trending now bro...

Casper: Do you know how many people are reading this (his tweet)?
Tony: You’re trending now bro…

So book a table, sorry , book your tickets and go see Chef.

Check out the trailer:

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6 thoughts on “Chef (2014)

  1. Nice to see Jon Favreau making movies that have him just being the average, everyday man we first fell in love with in the first place. Good review Mike.

    • Exactly!

      This one isn’t a big block-buster type of film like Favreau’s efforts in the Ironman series. Nor is it dressed in the clothing of Cowboys and Aliens – a hybrid of Cowboy and space creatures. As you say, Favreau’s Chef Carl Casper is an every man and that’s why we feel so good about this one. And doesn’t the food look. As an every man kind of character, we can all relate to this role. Although for almost all of us, having a Sofia Vergara as an ex, and Scarlett Johansson as a co-worker and current squeeze (even though they said they wouldn’t and shouldn’t) is probably beyond our best efforts.

  2. I’m surprised by the lack of hype that this movie is receiving. It appears to have such a terrific cast and the reviews are so far positive. Yet….no one is really talking about it! Great read by the way!

    • Thanks for comment.

      I knew I would see this film from the first time I saw the trailer. Buzz/hype depends on who you hang with, or talk to. Finding a good film depend on what you see or read. But sometimes both of those happen. I’m a guy who picks fils because I want to see them, not because they’ve sold a lot of tickets.

      • Oh, I totally agree dude! I watch independent films more than I view the popular ones! I am just genuinely surprised at how little this flick has been promoted!

        No problem!

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