Chef is an entertaining comedy-drama that presents realistic character drama.
Fair Warning: Do not watch this film on an empty stomach.
Chef follows Carl Casper, a passionate head chef who works at Gauloise in Los Angeles. Bothered that he is in a creative rut, Casper wants to make and serve new, daring food dishes at the restaurant. However, the owner, incorrigible Riva (Dustin Hoffman), wants Casper to serve his trademark dishes, instead of adding new items to the menu. When food critic Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt) eats at Gauloise and writes a bad review of Casper’s food, Casper challenges Michel by going on Twitter and demanding him to come back to the restaurant, so he can taste a whole new batch of food.
While all of this is going on, Casper tries to spends time with his son Percy (Emjay Anthony). Distracted by his workload at the restaurant, Casper sometimes will not see his son for two weeks at a time. Percy stays with Casper’s ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara), who lives a luxurious lifestyle. She encourages Casper to stop working at Gauloise and get a food truck, so he can make and serve whatever food he desires. Not interested in working on a food truck, Casper disses the idea and focuses on working at Gauloise.
After a mishap at Gauloise occurs, Casper is fired. Desperate, Casper follows Inez’s advice and visits her ex-husband Marvin in Miami (Robert Downey Jr.). Marvin gives him the food truck that is dirty and grimy. Casper and Percy clean the truck and start to bond more. Not long after the truck is cleaned, Martin (John Leguizamo), who worked under Casper at Gauloise, drops everything to work with Casper. The two of them plan to drive from Miami to Los Angeles, making frequent stops in cities to sell sandwiches. Percy joins them and learns more about how to be a line cook. From working together on the truck, Casper discovers how fun it is to cook and interact with Percy.
Written and directed by Jon Favreau, Chef is Favreau’s return to small-scale filmmaking. Like Elf, which was made on a budget of 33 million, Chef manages to entertain viewers, despite being made on a budget of 11 million. Chef is Favreau’s passion project and it excellently shows how talented he is as a writer/director.
On a directorial level, Favreau incorporates food-making montages with music to make food prepping sequences interesting to watch. Favreau includes an eclectic mix of music, ranging from old school soul, rock-and-roll, and Cuban music. All the musical choices mesh well with the sequences, helping viewers immerse even more into the film.
Favreau’s script showcases two main storylines: Casper and Percy bonding, and Casper’s career transition from head chef into food truck chef. The first storyline features Casper and Percy beginning to bond over cooking. Scenes of the two making and serving sandwiches create touching moments between the father and son. As a result, this storyline is the most potent and touching, engrossing viewers with the well-written dynamic of the father/son relationship. On the downside, the second storyline is less impactful. In this storyline, Casper’s transition into becoming a food truck chef comes a little late in the film. These scenes still pack a big punch, but doesn’t measure up to the other storyline. To add upon the negatives of the second storyline, social media is one of the driving forces of this narrative thread. With the inclusion of social media, Favreau hits and misses the mark. Favreau includes social media to reflect the real world, but his references to technology become a nuisance after the midpoint of the film. That said, one of the best parts about the social media narrative thread is watching Casper and Percy bonding over it; consequently, this is one of the many rewarding aspects of Chef.
Speaking of rewarding aspects, the acting in the film is impeccable. All actors bring their A-game to Favreau’s Chef. Favreau, who has made a successful acting career as well as a directing career (Iron Man, Elf), takes center stage and delivers a solid performance. As Casper, he is motivated, and passionate to do what he loves. Through Favreau’s subtle character acting, viewers will be able to see what drives the character and why we want him to succeed. Favreau is good in the film, but on occasion, says jokes that are hit-or-miss. Despite this hiccup, his scenes with the other characters are interesting to watch. Emjay Anthony, who plays Percy, is a talented young performer with a promising future. He measures up to the adult cast by displaying all the usual qualities associated with a ten-year old boy: naivetes, desire for adventure, and desire to spend time with his father. In short: Emjay Anthony nails it. John Leguizamo, who plays Martin, provides the most humor in the film. With Leguizamo in the role, he keeps viewers laughing from scene to scene.
Supporting actors Sofia Vergara, Scarlett Johansson, Oliver Platt, Bobby Cannavale, Dustin Hoffman, and Robert Downey Jr. bring their talents to their respective roles and embody them to a point where the characters come across as real-life people. Thanks to Favreau’s recruitment of these talented actors, Chef benefits from being a well-acted film.
Despite the abundance of social media’s presence in the film, Chef will still entertain many viewers who love engaging character drama and humor.
Rating: 4 out of 5
- First image: Netflix Life
- Second image: Daily Mail