Director: Jon Favreau Starring: Jon Favreau, Robert Downey Jr & Scarlett Johansson Synopsis: A chef who loses his restaurant job starts up a food truck in an effort to reclaim his creative promise, while piecing back together his estranged family Rating: 15 Runtime: 114 minutes Release date: 25 June 2014
After finally getting round to watching Chef, I had one thought on my mind afterwards. It wasn’t the catchy soundtrack, or the easy interplay between the characters, no, it was simply, food. No sooner had Chef ended and I was starving. I craved a grilled cheese sandwich the way it was made here, but most of all I craved one of those delicious looking cubano sandwiches that Jon Favreau’s character Carl Casper makes so well. It’s a little odd for a film to impact me in this way, as I’m pretty sure no other film has done this to me in the past, but it made me so hungry that I nearly forgot all about the film.
Chef opened in 2014 and was hailed as director Jon Favreau’s return to his indie roots. Before he made Elf and the first two Iron Man films, Favreau had written the excellent Swingers and the not so excellent Made. He wrote likeable characters and quick witted, natural, dialogue which found its way into the minds and vocabulary of impressionable 20 something males in the 90’s and early 2000’s. These traits have gladly found their way back into his work, and while Chef isn’t perfect, it is a lot of fun.
As the head chef of an uptown restaurant in California, Carl Casper (Favreau) finds himself in what can only be described as Hollywood’s version of a mid life crisis. He continually bumps heads with his boss and restaurant owner Riva (Dustin Hoffman) over how the menu should look, while he struggles to build a healthy relationship with his young son Percy (Emjay Anthony) after splitting from his wife Inez (Sofia Vergara). Casper’s daily battles with Riva all come to a head when food critic and popular blogger Ramsey Michel arrives to review Casper’s specially prepared food, only for Riva to demand that he cooks the “classics.”
Ramsey promptly posts a scathing review online, only for Casper to react angrily on Twitter, which ends in a very public meltdown for Casper in front of a restaurant full of people. It’s here that the film loses it edge. Up until now, Casper’s problems were an uphill battle, taking their toll on his personal and professional life, leaving the loveable chef in one dilemma after the other. However, once he quits his job and becomes something of an internet sensation, his problems no longer seem like the insurmountable odds they once were. He returns to Miami to spend time with his son and reinvigorate his love for food. Only now, everything seems to be handed to him rather easily.
He receives a run-down food truck from his ex-wife’s ex-husband, an excellent cameo appearance from Robert Downey Jr., and takes the truck around the country with a former colleague (John Leguizamo) and his son Percy who bond as they travel from state to state making a name for themselves in the revamped food truck. It’s all very cosy, and while it is no doubt fun to watch, it all becomes a little disenchanting as Casper no longer has to overcome any odds in order to find success again. This slight derailment aside, Chef remains any enjoyable feel good film with an entertaining cast and catchy soundtrack, just don’t watch it on an empty stomach.
In summary: No doubt a fun film, with great characters, sharp dialogue and a cracking soundtrack but Chef loses its momentum around the halfway mark, and thusly the audiences interest.