They say you should never go to work on an empty stomach, the same can be said about Jon Favreau‘s Chef. A film that sees the director actor go back to his independent roots instead of his recent formulaic blockbusters for something with a feel good feeling leaving you in a mood to eat and drink the night away.
In Chef we meet Carl Casper (Favreau) a celebrated chef from Los Angeles, obsessed by work which cost him his marriage with Inez (Sofia Vergara) as well as the time he spends with his son Percy (Emjoy Anthony).Carl is a perfectionist, he only gets the freshest and best local produce for his menu so when he learns the renowned fierce food critic Ramsay Michel (Oliver Platt) is coming to his abode he gets the best.After creating what he believes is a contemporary winning menu restaurant owner Rava (Dustin Hoffman) orders Carl to play it safe and the pair fight resulting in Carl losing his job.
Unfortunately, a negative review follows leading to Carl heading back to the restaurant to confront the critic and what happens goes viral. Things get even worse when the fight continues verbally online when he sends the critic what he believed was a private tweet but once again goes viral. Carl becomes unemployable forcing him to rethink his strategy back to work however Carl is offered a route back into work from the unlikeliest places his ex-wife Inez. She asks him to accompany her to Miami where he’ll meet her first ex-husband (Robert Downey Jnr) who donates an old catering van. Now joined by Carl’s former sous chef Martin(John Leguizamo), Carl, Percy go to town giving the van new equipment and a lick of paint go on a cross country cultural culinary journey back to Los Angeles not just helping Carl’s reputation but cement his relationship with his son.
Behind the chaos of Carl’s work life, you would assume Chef‘s main message would be it’s Father/Son bonding, which would be true though it’s rather lightweight but never feels out of place. Metaphorically speaking Chef is essentially food porn, what we see is sublime and nothing but delicious. Using camera techniques seen in Favreau’s mainstream incarnations, beautifully shot from the heart making you wish they have invented the cinema (or TV screen) that has smell-a-vision or Taste-a-vision.
You can see Favreau has been paying close loving attention as if each dish was a work of art. You really appreciate this when we watch him create the mouth watering dishes that would win the heart of anyone including a cold hearted food critic.His love spreads throughout his work right down to the cheese grilled sandwich he makes for his son. As for Favreau been convincing as Carl Casper, he delivers but largely thanks to many weeks training in the kitchen and catering van of American Celeb chef Roy Choi. You get a glimpse of Favreau intense training in the post-credits scene where Choi teaches the director how to make the star dish the Cubanos sandwich.
In the film’s finer moments in father son bonding time, we see Percy attempt to teach his old man the basics and true power of social and particularly Twitter. Carl’s fate is sealed when he believed his tweet was for his nemesis, becoming a moral lesson that sometimes the younger generation forget about the older generation. They sometimes take it for granted that everyone is up to scratch especially older generations, but it’s very relevant today with so many people destroying their good name thanks to comments and image.
Chef has it’s funny moments (& Hygiene ones too), especially for you gents when it comes to your man bits. Forget about your favourite B.O spray or talc powder, raid your mum’s store cupboard keep yourself fresh and dry spray your bits with cornflour! No one can deny Jon Favreau has a network of friends that would make anyone jealous, friends he can rely on and many of them turn up in Chef. One of the standouts is Robert Downey Jr, who does what he does best playing Tony Stark-esque type character, cocky and charismatic.He’s his usual funny but certainly not the star of the show as some critics, good though. John Leguizamo plays perfect support to Favreau’s Carl as Martin, he is his saving grace when things got stale.She may have been the eye candy in Fading Gigolo sadly Sofia Vergara is the weak link, how many have an opening happy relationship with all her ex-husbands and can still rely on them for help?
Chef is Jon Favreau‘s best film in a longtime but not at the level of quality of Swingers, even Elf. The star of the show is the food in which the film culturally celebrates the diversity of American culinary delights, but take out the star from the equation what you get is something rather bland and lightweight. Adore the wonderfully Moreish Buena Vista Social Club style soundtrack, Chef will deliver a souful addictive 2 hours of light-hearted appetizing summer viewing or you could pop to your generic American burger fast food joint and everything ill be over in 5 minutes.
Paul Devine |[rating=3]
Comedy |USA, 2014 | 15 |25th June 2014 (UK) | Lionsgate Films UK |Dir:Jon Favreau |Jon Favreau, John Leziugamo, Emjay Anthony, Sofia Vergara, Robert Downey Jr