Director: Jon Favreau
Starring: Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Scarlet Johansson, Oliver Platt, Bobby Cannavale, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Downey Jr.
Rated: R (language, including some suggestive references)
A head chef quits his restaurant job and buys a food truck in an effort to reclaim his creative promise, while piecing back together his estranged family.
By Cole Schneider
Jon Favreau started in independent filmmaking (“Swingers”), went on to big-budget studio films (“Ironman”), and now returns to the indie world with “Chef”. The story involves a chef who made it big doing it his way, which gave him the opportunity to run his own kitchen at a big restaurant. Without creative control he is poorly reviewed and starts his own food-truck wherein he regains not only creative control, but also rediscovers a passion for fatherhood and life itself. The movie is clearly a stand-in for Favreau’s career.
Beyond the obvious meta elements, the film works first as a love letter to food. Favreau is clearly passionate about food the same way Picasso must have loved art, Bob Dylan music, or myself film. The love from “Chef” sizzles.
Second, the film works as a struggling artist story, a genre of film we’ve come to know primarily by way of painters, writers, musicians. “Chef” spices things up because this artist’s canvas, page, or stage is a kitchen. The setting is unique among peers, even if the story isn’t.
Thirdly, the film works beautifully as a father-son story so organic I can only communicate through my experience. When I was young my second favorite thing to do was to share what I loved with my dad. My favorite was to share in what he loved. There is something inherently special in that relationship, which “Chef” captures through Favreau’s passion for food.
Rare is the film that is both this much fun and brings this much heart. Never have I enjoyed the process of expedited hunger so much.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
By Matt Greene
Chef is a passionate two-hour long love letter to cooking, returning Favreau to his roots of fun dialogue and solid characters. The food is mouthwatering, and when the film focuses on the main story of father and son building a food-truck, it hits. Unfortunately the first and last 20 minutes drag, bogging down in story building instead of just letting the world create itself. Nonetheless, enough joy seeps through to make this a decent small-scale dramedy.
Chef’s a movie for Millennials, exploring the effect technology and social networking has on family and work. It parallels Favreau’s own real-life career: highest highs, lowest lows, and bouncing back. He clearly did his homework on the culinary side, handling the fare with effortlessness. However, Chef is as much about fatherhood as it is food, questioning how to be a parent when you don’t feel grown up yourself. This father-son trope is nothing new, but it’s a bit more down-to-earth here than most melodramatic family dramas; sweet and true. It’s just a bummer that any depth explored is brought bluntly to the surface, rarely allowing us to naturally intuit them.
The film’s style works, both smooth and jarring like the main characters own cuisine… If only the final edit was more constricted. When they are focused on the kitchen and interplay, full of natural dialogue and chemistry, it works in spades. A tighter setup, some scenes cut (Downey Jr. is wasted and pointless), and a quicker end would make for a much better film. As is, Chef is merely passable, bolstered slightly by deliciously shot gourmet food.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars