Chef (Open Road Films)
Rated R for language, including some suggestive references.
Starring Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Emjay Anthony, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Sofía Vergara, Oliver Platt, Amy Sedaris, Robert Downey Jr., Russell Peters.
Written and directed by Jon Favreau.
I’m not a bad cook. My specialty is spaghetti, and I do all right with a little Cajun chicken and rice dish. When it comes to more complicated recipes, I tend to mess a few things up – but I can usually make just about anything edible. I suppose it’s a similar grading curve for my efforts as a husband and father. Sure, there are a few things I do fairly well, but I muddle through the other stuff. It’s that kind of comparison that’s the backdrop for Chef, a film that stars, is written and directed by Jon Favreau.
Favreau plays Carl Casper, a successful chef working at an upscale Los Angeles restaurant. Carl doesn’t get along with the owner Riva (Dustin Hoffman), but enjoys leading his staff, including Martin (John Leguizamo), Tony (Bobby Cannavale) and hostess Molly (Scarlett Johansson). After Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt), a snobby food critic (oh, those critics!) slams his menu, Carl goes off on a public tirade over Twitter and YouTube, which leads to his shameful departure from the restaurant business. The blowup also makes Carl a bit of a celebrity.
Adding to Carl’s troubles is his relationship with his son Percy (Emjay Anthony), which is strained by a divorce from the boy’s mother Inez (Sofia Vergara). After his meltdown, Carl agrees to accompany Inez to Miami, where she sets up a meeting with her ex Marvin (Robert Downey Jr.), a wealthy businessman. Marvin agrees to finance a food truck for Carl, who reluctantly agrees to bring Percy long for a cross-country tour. Martin inexplicably shows up to help out, while Percy uses Twitter and YouTube to publicize the food truck trip, with stops in New Orleans and Austin, Texas. As word spreads, people flock to the truck wherever it stops, and discover the great cuisine Carl as to offer (highlighted by his delicious Cubano sandwiches). When the truck arrives in southern California, Carl is again a celebrity, and he must decide whether to swallow his pride and be better chef/father, or go back to the way things were.
Chef is an obvious labor of love for Favreau, who produced, wrote, directed and plays the leading role in the film. With so much control, it seems Favreau overindulged himself with a few key elements in the movie – not the least of which is casting two of the hottest women in Hollywood as his lead character’s love interests (Vergara and Johansson). Favreau also mixes in more than a few pinches of sentimentality, providing a story that is altogether sweet and unrealistic.
Even with these overindulgences, Chef is a fine film that allows Favreau to express more than just his talents as a writer and director – but also his voice, resulting in a tasty cinematic treat.
One thing I know for sure: even if everybody who see the movie doesn’t love Chef – they will surely get a real craving for one of those Cubano sandwiches. I know I want one.
Want to know what Jenniffer Wardell thought of Chef? Check out her review here.