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.
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.
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.
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…
So book a table, sorry , book your tickets and go see Chef.
Check out the trailer: