Review

Director/writer/producer/actor Jon Favreau’s last couple directing jobs have been the big-budget studio films.  While having initial success with films like Elf and Iron Man, his last few had failed to make an impact both critically and commercially (Zathura, Cowboys & Aliens).  Favreau began his directing career with 2001’s Made and wrote and stared in 1996’s Swingers, both co-staring Vince Vaughn.  Favreau has shown he can more than handle a large studio production, but with his latest effort Chef, he returns to his roots and the results make for a heartwarming funny ride, which I believe parallel Favreau’s own life.

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Fairly detailed plot description below.  Skip this paragraph to avoid any plot spoilers.

Favreau stars as chef Carl Casper, who is at a point in his career where his creativity is stifled and is forced to cook the same-old-thing night-after-night.  Carl does not get along with restaurant owner Riva (Dustin Hoffman), who is the main reason Carl hates his job.  Riva won’t let hiom cook what he wants, and forces to cook what sells.  Carl does get along with his employees Martin (John Leguizamo), Molly (Scarlett Johansson), and Marvin (Bobby Cannavale).  This is only half of Carls life, as he has an ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) and a son Percy.  Inez and Carl get along well for a divorced couple, while Percy on the other hand loves his father and just wants to spend time with him.  Carl only sees Percy on his weekly visits, and rarely finds the time to be with is son, seeing him mostly as a burden.  After a blow-up at work, Carl ends up buying a food truck, and along with friend Martin and son Percy, embark on a trip through the sates where the father and son finally bond, and Carl gets back to what he loves in life.

ChefChef features stellar performances from the main cast, to the well-placed cameos that gave the film enough surprises along the way to maintain its funny moments.  The cast is strong, even if most of the cast offer small supporting roles to making small cameos.  Favreau has great chemistry with his ex-wife Inez (Sofía Vergara), and the two are great together caring for their son Percy (EmJay Anthony), a kid who just wants to spend time with his dad.  The relationship between the father and son is perfectly executed, as their relationship grows throughout the course of the movie.

Chef draws parallels to Favarue’s own life.  He started out directing small-budget indie films, and quickly moved on to the blockbusters.  This is very similar to his character Carl, who started small and rose to the top of the Chef ladder, eventually running the kitchen of a high profile restaurant.  Favreau got the the top of the filmmaking world, directing Iron Man in 2008, and reinventing the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.  But things didn’t go exactly how he thought, leaving Marvel and making another blockbuster in Cowboys and Aliens, which was flat and failed both critically and commercially.  Favreau needed to top back to his roots and what he is truly talented at, the small-budget indies.  Both Carl and Favreau achieved the highest levels of success, but both were unsatisfied.  They had to go back to the basics, and remember why they love what they do (and I think Favreau re-gained his stride).  Favreau has another high-profile film in the works however with 2015’s live-action Jungle Book, so he’s not getting hung up on the indies.

Chef Movie (4)At a time of the year when action movie after action movie are hitting theaters, Chef offers a different breed of film, and is a great change-of-pace.  Director Jon Favreau has written and directed a tightly written film with acting that helps elevate the execution of said script.  Chef is a heartfelt movie that fans of all ages can enjoy (although it’s rated R so maybe not all ages).  One least note, be sure to eat BEFORE or during your screening, Chef will make you hungry.

Written and directed by Jon Favreau, Chef co-stars Sofía Vergara, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Oliver Platt, Dustin Hoffman, and the one-and-only Bob Downey, Jr.

 

 



About the Author

Peter Towe
Peter Towe
A graduate of UMASS Boston, I have successfully put off getting a "real" job, and continue to watch, produce, review, and obsess over movies. I lived in Boston while I completed my degree, and now live in Chicago trying the improv thing.