It’s the movie that started a number of careers. Ask any food-truck running in the city and there is a good chance that half of them have been influenced by Chef. At a time when MasterChef in its numerous avatars is ruling over our TV screen and Eat St. is making food-trucks the “hipster“ of the culinary world, there came along Jon Favreau’s self-starring – which he also directed and wrote – passion project Chef that celebrates food, family, and relationships in a charming way.
Instagram and Twitter might make it easy for the common man or woman to announce to the world what they had for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or in-between on any given day, but Jon Favreau takes everything a step further by combining this love and craze for food and mixing it up with a heart-warming tale of a personal relationship between a father and son and a look at the camaraderie that exists in the kitchen.
Gorgeous to look at and hunger inducing, Chef is seasoned rather well with a supporting cast that features big names like Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr., Dustin Hoffman, Sofia Vergara, and Oliver Platt, but it is Jon Favreau’s Carl Caper as the celebrity chef who “loses it” after getting a bad review and must find his roots, who steals the show. Emjay Anthony playing Casper’s son Percy and John Leguizamo’s Martin as Casper’s Sous Chef who leaves everything behind at the restaurant to join Casper in his journey of self-discovery are both strong supporting cast members adding to what is also a road movie in disguise.
Chef, besides presenting a gastronomically excellent fare, is also musically sparkling. After Guardians of the Galaxy, this is the second film I have seen recently that utilizes music perfectly so that it seeps into the story and forms a part of it. Furthermore, there is a general feel-good factor that runs throughout the film which excels by adding the right amount of essential ingredients, such as emotion, passion, music, philosophy, and food in a more visual sense.
Unfortunately, while on the one hand Chef capitalizes on its positives, it also lacks a certain depth and drama that would have taken the film a notch higher. The hurdles that Casper faces seem a tad superficial and thus his path to rediscovering his passion for food suffers due to a lack of complexity. However, the film works rather well on repeat viewings and maybe it is this lack of density that makes it easy to watch again and again.
What is more troublesome is that the film acts like an advert for social media, especially Twitter, highlighting the pros and cons of being on the internet as Casper discovers that tweeting isn’t private and ends up in a war of words with the food critic that gave him a bad review, but the very same social medial is later used by his son to benefit as they travel around the country in a food truck. While this might have worked a few years back when all this was new, now it just seems like a forced lecture in Social Media 101.
On the flip side of it, the film can be a cautionary tale of the growing importance of social media in our lives. On the one hand a few tweets can tarnish a reputation and on the other it can be used to gain popularity. Our dependence of social media is worrisome and while the film takes the matter lightly, thankfully, it does play along with the ups and down of being active in the virtual world.
Problems aside, Chef is a well made and likeable film that can be enjoyed with the family and one that tries its best to be part of the “cool” crowd with all its social media integration and jargon. Part romantic comedy, part coming of age film, a road movie, and family drama, it combines all these aspect in a subtly comic way and presents a dish that is sure to please everyone who pays for it.