Cert: 15 Runtime: 114 mins Director: Jon Favreau Cast: Jon Favreau, Emjay Anthony, John Leguizamo, Sofia Vergara, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman and Robert Downey Jr.
I may not do everything great in my life, but I’m good at this. I manage to touch people’s lives with what I do and I want to share this with you.
In general life I like Jon Favreau, on and off the screen he seems like an entertaining man. Chef intrigued me from the start, I love cooking. For me personally it’s a hobbie that I adore, there is no greater feeling than cooking for some friends and family and enjoying something you have created. Food has a lot of passion and soul, and this is what I want to see in Jon Favreau’s Chef. What is Chef all about then? Chef Carl Casper is bullied by his restaurant’s owner (Dustin Hoffman) into churning out safe food. A stinging review by a respected critic (Oliver Platt) prompts this divorced dad and frustrated kitchen genius to go ballistic and get himself fired. Carl’s wealthy ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) steps in to help with a plane ticket to Miami, while her first husband (Robert Downey Jr) donates a beat-up old taco truck. So he refurbishes the vehicle and hits the road, bonding with his 11-year-old son and rediscovering his zest for exquisite culinary creations.
The pairing of sumptuous shots of food preparation with Latin beats is hard to resist for most audiences, and the food shots in Chef are so luscious and evocative that you can almost smell what’s cooking. The music, sensual and spicy, is perfectly matched to the food. There’s a beauty and a rhythm in the food preparation scenes and the amount of them included in the film is just right, so as not to feel over indulgent. There is also a lot of enjoyment to be had from watching the performances of the supporting cast, and perhaps this is because each of them play to their strengths: Robert Downey Jr steals the scene as Casper’s ex-wife’s other ex-husband who is rich, generous, and always looks like he’s on the verge of doing something really crazy; Sofia Vegara plays Casper’s sweet, sexy, well- meaning ex-wife, who he is still great friends with; John Leguizamo, always an interesting actor to watch, has fantastic chemistry with Favreau and the young actor who plays his son, and some of the more meandering scenes in the film are made interesting by his infectious energy; and Dustin Hoffman adds an element of compassion to a role that could have easily been reduced to a caricature.
The stars featuring in the film stay firmly within their safe zone, and I couldn’t help but remember what Hoffman tells Favreau early in the movie: play your hits, because no one wants to go to a Rolling Stones concert and not hear ‘Satisfaction’. While this can have the potential to be boring, it bodes well for the film: we know we’re in safe hands, and we’re going to come out of this feeling satisfied. Special mention must be made of Emjay Anthony, who plays Favreau’s son Percy with the perfect blend of maturity and innocence, and is really the emotional centre of the film. While the film is certainly a feast for the senses, at its core it’s about restoration: restoring the father-son relationship, and restoring passion. It’s hard to ignore the parallels to Favreau’s own career: after breaking out in the 1996 indie hit Swingers, Favreau has in recent years become a director of the mega-blockbusters: the first two Iron Man movies, and the less well-received Cowboys & Aliens. Here, he cleanses his palate as a director and returns to more down-to-earth, feel-good fare (there’s even a dead-on remark about Casper’s/Favreau’s “dramatic weight gain”. Ouch). A familiar recipe made with great ingredients, Chef will leave you feeling satisfied. Also you may want to cook a grilled cheese sandwich after.