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Review: Chef


ABOUT: Chef is a 2014 American comedy film directed, co-produced, written by, and starring Jon Favreau. The film co-stars Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sofia Vergara, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt and John Leguizamo. It premiered at SXSW on March 7, 2014 and was released theatrically in the United States on May 9, 2014.

This film has been out for months and when I saw it [about a week ago] the theatre was packed. That is far from surprising to me in that there is nothing offensive, violent or challenging here. If you are hungry, on a diet, in the food industry or love reality television food programs you will enjoy this film. The images of food and cooking were gorgeous.

The director of photography won an American Society of Cinematographers Award earlier this year for the television series “Game of Thrones.” He wanted a change from shooting darkness to light – done.

Plot: Miami-born Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) has a chance to prove himself in a restaurant in Los Angeles, when prestigious critic and blogger Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt) comes to dine in his restaurant. Popular with hostess Molly (Scarlett Johansson) and his assistant chefs, Carl is working his creative side and dabbling in a new Tasting Menu, but the owner (Dustin Hoffman) intervenes and tells Carl to serve the menu’s old classics.

Yes, this is a very nice, feel-good movie and for many people that is fine but I personally do not think that that is healthy to reinforce the illusion that everything turns out perfectly. However, I am a person who has big problems with most fairy tales. In my mind, this is a foodie fairytale.

The Express says; A word of advice – don’t even think about watching Chef on an empty stomach. There is so much chopping, seasoning, frying, toasting, tossing and tasting sprinkled throughout the film that you are virtually guaranteed to have hunger pangs by the closing credits. That is not necessarily a bad thing, you just need to be forewarned.

Favereau gives the impression of having some nifty culinary skills especially with his high speed chopping of ingredients which is always impressive. He also coaxes a very good performance from Emjay Anthony as the wise, stoical son. Anthony is much more real and believable than many a precocious American child actor. There is also a bizarre cameo from Favereau’s Iron Man star Robert Downey Jr as Casper’s ex-wife’s ex-husband. You have the impression this may have been entirely improvised.

 In USA Today Favreau says about his role as the chef, “I love the romantic image of the chef and I love food and I wanted to do something about being a dad and balancing out career and family. It hit me at once. I wrote it in a few weeks,” he says. “The story was about a guy who has not grown in many, many years, and you can see why. This is a guy who was stuck not growing in his craft, his life, his relationships. But on the surface, he seems to be living the dream.”

Scarlett Johansson is in everything these days and here she plays a romantic interest. She says; “I felt very familiar with that kind of relationship, as I get older and experience different things, understanding the different value in a relationship that isn’t necessarily the person you will end up with and have your family with. Those relationships are rarely explored on film. They are so profound and real.” I would call her limited screen-time cameoish. She is capable of a lot more.

From what I understand, Iron Man is not an Iron Chef… “Downey’s not a cook,” Favreau told MTV News. “He’s a singer, he’s a writer, he’s an artist, so he’s definitely a jack of all trades.” His cameo role is a standard one, limited to one scene only. I’ll take what I can get though. In my opinion, he is the most under- rated actor out there.

A review in the Guardian says, Faveau casts Sofia Varaga and Scarlett Johansson as his love interests, and an adoring moppet as his son, when what he really needed was a script editor who’d trim down that second half travelogue and scrape out some of the cheese. This is all a little harsh, for there’s nourishment to be had, if you lower your expectations. But be warned: a lot of it is just watching Jon Favreau make toasties in a van. Nice toasties. Tastey toasties. Twittered toasties but, um …

The emphasis on social media is humungus here. I am feeling that Twitter does not have the power to make or break you. In this film, Twitter is god-like. Like fairytales, I think that Twitter is a kind-of fabrication of our own desire [huh?].

Amidst all the food and tweeting is a tale about how one man must repair his relationships with a son and ex-wife. Its context – the food – is unique but really this is a story that has been told many times. We are living in a world full of mortal danger. The escape factor here cannot be underestimated.

This is a film you could take your parents to see or if you were interested in a non-edgy first date – go for it.


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