Chef (2014)

_DSC9034.NEFCarl Casper (Jon Favreau) is head chef at a popular Los Angeles restaurant, where he works alongside sous chef Tony (Bobby Cannavale), line cook Martin (John Leguizamo) and hostess Molly (Scarlett Johansson). When owner Riva (Dustin Hoffman) vetoes a planned menu change and condemns him to a negative review by influential food blogger Ramsey (Oliver Platt), Carl storms out in a fit of rage that is filmed by a number of the diners. Now jobless and a laughing stock online, Carl swallows his pride, takes his ex-wife’s advice and travels down to Miami to buy a food truck — christened Le Jeffe — from an ex of her own called Marvin (Robert Downey Jr.). He also agrees to take his son along for the ride, finally getting the opportunity to spend some time with him.

Having somewhat struck out with Cowboys vs. Aliens, Jon Favreau is only now — three years later, after serving as executive producer on the most recent Iron Man film and taking a couple of small screen directing gigs — bouncing back. Not without his own critics, there are distinct parallels running between Casper and Favreau, and it doesn’t exactly take too much of a leap to imagine his comments on the blogosphere applying to film as well as food criticism. Fortunately, Favreau (as director, that is) doesn’t dwell on the subject — in fact, he arguably comes down on the critic’s side — but instead gets on with the business of putting together a pretty decent road movie, easily his best film since the first Iron Man.

There is a fair amount of prep to get through before the director seems ready to dig in, however, as Favreau throws just about everything and everyone he can get his hands on into the mix. Hoffman, Johansson and Downey Jr crowd the first act, threatening to unbalance the film as they jostle for attention. Of the supporting cast it is probably Sofia Vergara who impresses most as Carl’s ex-wife, which may come as something of a surprise if you only know her as the Colombian actress from The Smurfs, New Years Eve and The Three Stooges. Eventually, however, Favreau remembers to pour off the fat.

The film finds its focus almost as soon as Carl, Percy and Martin leave Miami. This new, more relaxed Favreau is much easier to sympathise with, and his efforts to share his interests with his young son are incredibly touching. It’s Percy who is ultimately responsible for the endeavour’s success, by recognising the potential of social media and embracing his father’s infamy to raise El Jefe’s profile around the country. This particular gimmick is handled very well, with Tweets represented by little blue birds fluttering noisily into the Twittersphere. Even when Percy compiles a Vine of their experiences — comprising footage from every day of the trip — the film never comes across as manipulative or try-hard, but instead invokes a genuine emotional reaction.

Favreau ultimately proves his critics wrong, both in front and behind the scenes, not only showing incredible technical proficiency (he chops vegetables like a natural), but also a love and appreciation for the art of cooking himself (he’s clearly done his research). It’s too long and a little overcrowded, but for the most part rather than making a meal out of it Favreau has let his ingredients speak for themselves.

3.5-Stars

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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