CHEF // Jon Favreau takes to independent filmmaking with his food truck film titled “Chef”, in which he writes, directs, and stars in. The quintessential definition of “food porn,” the story Favreau weaves takes professional chef Carl (director Jon Favreau himself) from the kitchen of a high end restaurant owned by Riva (Dustin Hoffman) to a food truck that ventures from Florida to the west coast, picking up ingredients and a mass following along the way. Throughout the film, Carl makes chopping and sauteing look fun, preparing some of the best looking food I have personally ever seen in a film, including a crunchy grilled cheese sandwich that I still cannot get out of my mind. The reason for the career change; a Twitter battle with one of the most popular online food critics, Ramsey, played expertly by Oliver Platt. Tacked on as a side story is Carl’s son, Percy (Emjay Anthony) and his ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) who inject the film some heart but offer little in terms of a driving force for the film. Favreau also reaches out to his Marvel buddies Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson to offer supporting roles alongside John Leguizamo and Bobby Cannavale who play his trusted righthand men in the kitchen.
“Chef” is not as heart-warming as Favreau sets it out to be, but it being rough around the edges is actually what makes it stand out to me. Portraying life as messy, there is no better way to create relatability than making the characters and their relationships somewhat flawed. Despite the transparent foreshadowing and distinct direction in which the film is headed on its way to a storybook climax, the cast of characters helps to make the film feel fresh and worth watching. Defying genres, “Chef” touches on several at the same time, shifting between them throughout the course of the film. From the underdog tale, to a dark comedy, to a road trip buddy flick, Favreau carries the film to new heights with his tough love and cynical attitude which is eventually turned upside down as he and his son influence one another. The narrative is also chalked full of morals including following your dreams, believing in yourself, and doing the right thing when it comes to your professional life and your family. As stated, the narrative might get messy and unfocused at times, but in Favreau’s defense, so does life and for that I can forgive most of the film’s shortcomings. A fair warning however, do not view “Chef” on an empty stomach or, believe me, you will be running to your own kitchen to try your hand at the delectable grilled cheese sandwich and chances are, it will not end up as amazing as Favreau makes it look.
[Directed by Jon Favreau] [R] [114 min] [30 May 2014]