I’ve already started to spread the word. I’ve already tweeted about it. I have even ‘spotified’ the soundtrack. I went into this screening knowing full well that the buzz was favourable. Jon Favreau has been consistent in contributing to everything that’s key to enjoying cinema for the past decade be it as an actor or director. With the added draw of the impressive supporting cast – it was a win. So if anything, I was apprehensive about how far this film had to fall if I didn’t like it.
STORY: Restaurant owner Riva refuses to let his chef Carl Casper’s creative juices flow, giving him an ultimatum – either cook the dishes on the menu or leave. Although Carl sticks to the menu, bad reviews criticising his lack of creativity result in a Twitter war and he loses his job. With the help of his friend Martin, ex-wife Inez and son Percy, Carl opens up a food truck and tours the country with his culinary delights, rediscovering his passion for cooking along the way…
I was not disappointed. I would add this movie to my DVD collection. It’s that kind of good. The kind that has longevity. It’s feel good, it’s funny and it’s so gorgeous on-screen. It’s also no coincidence that I felt like I wanted to reach out and grab the food prepared on camera, it was so well shot and cut together, not a single frame is wasted. And to top it all off I was left drooling for all the right reasons.
Stripped back, the story isn’t revolutionary, but for the most part it’s an upbeat, refreshing take on the American Dream that doesn’t involve superheroes. There are continuous themes of grassroots, returning to simplicity and starting again throughout: the food Casper prepares and the way he distributes it; his relationship with his son; the clear conventions of embarking on a ‘road trip’ – it’s even clear to see the juxtaposition between what Favreau has been directing and starring in over the past few years. This is not about special effects and surround sounds, it’s a simple indie, and It feels like everyone who took part enjoyed it – it’s what translates so well onto screen.
Favreau as Riva, is affable, extremely talented; an everyman who knows his craft and loves it. It’s an effortless performance, here Favreau takes the reigns as leading man and he does so brilliantly. It’s perhaps his most multifaceted role to date and I sincerely hope he does more. Supported by what I could only describe as some of the funniest, appealing and likable actors ever gives this movie a little more welcomed star power without taking away from the films independent conventions. Sofia Vegara is a successful woman, mother and ex-wife to Casper and the nice touch here is that the two are still very good friends. The consistently brilliant John Leguizamo as Favreau’s right hand man, Martin, is brings a lot of the comic relief and support Casper needs on the road and when re-connecting with his son. Dustin Hoffman’s role as narrow-minded restaurateur, Riva, is cut to a few scenes but it’s a wonderful cameo that sets up the course of the story nicely. Oliver Platt is in it even less but becomes astutely villainous via the ever-present power of social media setting the tone of the very interactive production; Robert Downey Jr is in it for one humorous scene. It’s a conversation about the world we live in today, that much is obvious, but for whatever existential discussions that may arise when other critics assess it deeper, Chef is first and foremost a very good watch.
I have nothing bad to say about this film, only that I left it feeling hungry.
This film selection is part of the Launching Films UK Cinema Showcase: