Classic Movie Review: Chef (2014)

Posted: February 7, 2015 in Comedy, Drama
Tags: , , , ,


Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) is a chef for a popular Los Angeles restaurant.  He is facing a review from a influential food blogger, Ramsey Michel  (Oliver Platt) and wants to shake up the menu a little.  But after Riva (Dustin Hoffman) the owner of the restaurant stops by and orders him to serve his most popular dishes, Carl complies, and waits for the review.    Michel rips the food, and his review of the restaurant goes viral.  Carl gets his son, Percy (Emjay Anthony) to sign him up for Twitter, and Carl throws down the gauntlet for Michel to come try his food again.  Riva again interferes with the menu, and Michel again writes an awful review.  This time, Carl confronts Michel in person, and the confrontation again goes viral, via social media.  Carl is ruined.

With nowhere else to go, Carl follows his ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) to Miami.  Inez has been prodding Carl to get to know his son Percy a little better, and get a food truck, and cook what he wants, but getting a food truck would involve making a business deal with Inez’ ex-husband, Marvin. (Robert Downey Jr.)  Does Carl really want to get mixed up with his ex-wife’s ex-husband?  Does he want a real relationship with Percy?  Isn’t being a weekend dad much easier?

This is a great movie.  Jon Favreau wrote, produced, directed and starred in this film about a chef who stands up for his principles and pays a big price.  The question is, can Carl Casper rebuild his life without giving up on the style of cooking that made him famous to begin with?  I think the central aspect of this movie is the relationship between Carl and Percy, Percy just wants to be part of his dad’s life in a real and meaningful way, Carl thinks that taking him to the amusement park and the movies makes him a good father. Can Carl reconcile the differences between Percy’s perceptions of him, and improve his part time parenting skills?  This movie also provides a realistic illustration of the impact of social media in today’s society.  It can ruin people, it can also help them build back what is lost.  A portion this movie is about the impact of critics in the internet age.  As a critic with a blog, I take my responsibility very seriously, and my responsibility is to my followers, to steer them away from the vast array of flotsam and jetsam that Hollywood calls movies, and steer them towards movies that are worth their time and money.  But I found Favreau’s take on critics an interesting one, and I hope to be that influential one day.  The ending is a little too neat, but the flaws in this movie are minor, compared to the many things it does well.  It is much funnier than I expected, heartfelt, and touching.

Favreau does a heck of a job as an actor, as a frustrated chef, who only wants to cook.  He doesn’t want a reality show or a boss that tells him what to do, it’s a great role, and he plays it well.  Dustin Hoffman, Scarlett Johansson are really good in small roles.  11 year old Emjay Anthony does an exceptional job in a complicated role, and John Legiuzamo who usually annoys me was funny and restrained more than usual.  Sophia Vergara really was the only part of the cast that was not impressive, in essence, she was playing the same charcter she plays in Modern Family, a loud, brassy Latina.  But she had a relatively small role in the film.  And blues guitarist Gary Clark Jr. appears in the film as himself and plays a few songs in the movie, as icing on a very flavorful cake.

Director Favreau does a good job capturing the sights and sounds of Miami and New Orleans, as the film unfolds into a travelogue of sorts.  He also keeps the pacing moving along, and gets good performances from almost everyone. I only know Favreau  as a director of the movie Elf, a very funny movie.  Most of all, he got some great shots of food, or food porn as it is often referred to now.  I think he uses a stunt chef, because all we see are hands in most of the cooking shots.  Producer Favreau must have called in a lot of favors, because he got a stellar cast, and they all fit into the movie flawlessly.

Chef:  Can you smell what Jon Faavreau is cooking?

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