Chef Review

The Plot

When a successful chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) becomes an online phenomenon thanks to a run in with a food critic, he decides to try and rediscover his love for cooking with the help of a co-worker (John Leguizamo) and his son.

The Good

There are two main things writer/director/actor Jon Favreau is known for. Firstly, his stint on Friends as the Ultimate Fighting Champion and Monica’s boyfriend, Pete Becker. But more so now for his work on the first two instalments of the Iron Man franchise. Plus of course every Christmas we’re reminded that he directed Elf the third greatest Christmas movie of all time. Chef however, is a clear step away from his recent  Hollywood experience and no doubt his most personal piece of work since his acclaimed indie debut Swingers.

Before getting into the main dish of the film, we must first look upon the starter. Favreau has created a film that, if viewed on an empty stomach will surely torture you. Whether it’s the delicacy of delicious dishes such as prawns or the simplicity of a toasted cheese sandwich, each time Carl Casper works his magic (which is pretty much throughout the film) you will salivate uncontrollably and your stomach will rumble wanting, no, needing to taste what’s being displayed on screen so beautifully. In fact this will probably occur no matter how long ago you ate. Essentially Favreau has managed to slip food porn into his film. In the most hardcore sense.

While the main plot centres around the food business, look deeper and you’ll find a hidden message about film criticism wrapped inside. Favreau’s script cleverly expresses his thoughts and views on working on big Hollywood movies and hides this inside a fantasy tale about a chef. Dustin Hoffman plays the big mean boss who won’t let the artistic talent be shown and instead orders Casper to stick to the classic menu that has been pleasing punters for ten years without a fuss. Drawing similar themes with the current state of Hollywood. For years now we’ve been accustomed to following the rules that the film business has laid out for us. And whilst Chef certainly isn’t the first film to do it, it questions why we should sit back and be fed the same things instead of venturing out and trying a new ingredient.

One of the films main plot devices is that of twitter and social networking as a whole. Favreau brings the argument both for and against the idea of social networking when it comes to reviews and marketing. Easily displaying how, in today’s tech savvy world, one simple tweet can either destroy you or create you. Again it’s something that has been done before, but Favreau somehow manages to make it personal.

The Bad

Although the hidden message is clever and interesting, it sometimes comes off as a bit too pretentious after a while. Chef is a film which can easily be viewed as either a silly quirky indie movie with heart and soul or as a smartly played out example of the current situation with today’s blockbusters. To view it as one or the other can easily annoy. It’s best really to try and switch your mind between both while watching if you can.

On a side note, if you have seen the posters and trailers you’ll no doubt know that Favreau’s old Iron Man chums, Robert Downey Jr and Scarlett Johannson star in Chef. Whilst the poster boasts that RDJ is ‘awesome’ it’s important to know that he really only appears in one small scene, which whilst integral to the story, probably won’t stick in your memory as much as the marketing people want you to think.

Johannson has more to do than RDJ, but is disappointingly brushed aside early on. So early in fact that you’ll wonder what happened to her. Dustin Hoffman’s cameo is dealt with correctly, easily being picked up and dropped down with no effort and no particular need for him from the moment he’s dropped. But with Johannson it seems her story is left without an ending.

The Ugly Truth

Chef is a beautifully shot homage to food which will leave you wanting to visit the nearest restaurant the second you leave the cinema. It’s also an incredibly interesting look at the film industry, film criticism and social networking. Take your pick as to which side you choose to focus on. But to get the most enjoyment out of Favreau’s latest, it’s probably best to stay sitting on the fence…

Check out our chat with Jon Favreau below:

Leave A Comment