Heart and soul
The art of making films and the art of making meals have many similarities. Both have certain elements one must combine in a certain way to obtain a finished product people will want to consume, and in both cases, there is a fine line between effectively combining the ingredients into a great final product, and just mixing them together. In the case of Jon Favreau’s “Chef” I am very pleased to say that the former is the case. I was fortunate enough to attend a premiere of the film as London Real official press, Favreau himself attended and took questions after.
What's it all about?
“Chef” touches on a topic we can all relate to, the idea of Passion vs Economics and of choosing something you love rather than selling out. We are introduced to Carl Casper (Played by Favreau) a celebrity chef going through an artistic crisis as his overbearing boss (Dustin Hoffman) stifles his creativity at every turn. When challenging him gets Carl fired, he decides to go back to his artistic roots and opens a food truck. Thus begins Carl’s journey to find his passion again, and to rebuild the waning bond with his son.
Doing it different
What first struck me about this film is how familiar it felt; yet really deviated from normal convention. It has the tone of an American summer comedy, but none of the clichés we’ve come to expect from them. I constantly found myself anticipating what was about to happen only to be proven wrong again and again. This was incredibly refreshing and, for the first time in a long time, I found myself having fun watching the plot unfold. The film’s two-hour runtime is hefty for a comedy, but unless you do as I did and presume to know the plot by comparing it to a bog standard American comedy, you’ll enjoy every second of it. I learned quickly though, that this was a gradual film I had to settle down and relax to enjoy and enjoy it I did.
The outstanding cast is what truly makes this film. Not a single performance was anything short of stellar. A concern I had, going into this movie, was that with Favreau starring in and directing this film, one of the two would be compromised, leaving one or both lacking. I couldn’t have been more mistaken, Favreau was both funny and endearing as Carl, while John Leguizamo kept the funny wisecracks up, and Sofia Vergara does a great job as Carl’s ex wife, and voice of reason in the film. Dustin Hoffman plays the film’s antagonist and delivers a performance not unlike Jack Gleeson’s in Game of Thrones, I hated him every second, and loved every second of hating him. Favreau favorites Robert Downey Jr and Scarlett Johanson also appear, Scarlett as the ever-sexy temptress and Robert as an insane but hilarious character you need to experience firsthand to fully comprehend. All in all, not one actor failed in creating a living, breathing, believable character that fit into this film’s world.
As this film is about a chef, one would expect there to be copious “Food Porn” in this film. That is a gross understatement. “Chef” will have you salivating in the first ten minutes and then proceed to blitz you with image after image of food, each dish more exquisite looking than the last. The fact that it not only looks good, but looks like it tastes really good too does wonders for Carl’s character. It makes a world of difference between seeing an actor playing a world class chef and seeing a character who is a world-class chef. The diversity of the food is as striking as the visuals. From Cubanos (Cuban sandwiches) to Texas slow-smoked beef, we are really taken around the world of food and are left really damn hungry at the end (though Favreau did admit, with a chuckle, that he used a little CGI to make the food look even nicer).
All in all, Chef is a rare gem in today’s cinema that does things differently, and succeeds wholly. Cast, script, cinematography and culinary visuals all excel and complement each other to make a fresh, funny and interesting film.