I had the pleasure of attending a free preview of Chef this morning at my local cinema. Despite waking up 20 minutes before it started with a raging hang over, my friend and I hauled ass and made it just in time. Here is some friendly advice, don’t see this film on an empty stomach with a mouth dryer than corn starch, the food looks IMMENSE in this movie – the popcorn and hot dogs on offer just didn’t seem appealing in comparison!
I have seen a few negative reviews about this film, but it hasn’t scored too badly on IMDB despite the overly cynical head line “frustratingly straightforward, simplistic and just plain unengaging” on the latest review. I would ask this person if they were in a particularly pessimistic mood when they saw Chef, because I found the simple story line refreshing and was totally hooked by the characters throughout! Maybe I am easily pleased or just enjoy watching a real feel good film, either way my grin got bigger with every shot of a sizzling griddle and I even welled up with actual joy near the end of the movie (that could be attributed to my emotional hangover state).
The premise is straightforward, “A chef who loses his restaurant job starts up a food truck in an effort to reclaim his creative promise, while piecing back together his estranged family” (IMDB). Jon Favreau of course plays Chef Carl Casper who is also getting to grips with social media, in particular Twitter, which features heavily in the story line. They used the whole social media thing very well in capturing the power of it and how it can be used to help promote things as well as be used on a personal level, i.e. with his son, Percy. Percy is played by Emjay Anthony and is the cutest little 10 year old, he does a fantastic job and the chemistry between him, Favreau and best friend Martin, played by John Leguizammo is wonderful. I wanted to be on that food truck with them touring the US it looked like so much fun!
Some big names were pulled into this movie and some have questioned why… erm, why not! I loved Robert Downey Jr’s off the wall character, yes he was maybe underused but it isn’t a RDJ movie, he brought some comedy and for me it was well received. Scarlett Johansson had a super cool look as the head waitress and close friend of Chef Casper, I would have liked to have seen her character come into the story later on as well but it was probably realistic that she isn’t much involved when they hit the road in the food truck. Dustin Hoffman’s performance is solid although his funny side could have been utilised a little more.
One of my favourite characters though was Sofia Vergara playing Inez, Casper’s ex wife and mother of Percy. Her character was warm and funny, I could see a connection between the family and really enjoyed their screen time together. Warm and funny is probably a good description of the film truth be told. The food looked amazing, the sound track was brilliant and the general feel of the film was really inspiring. It made me want to jump in a car and tour all these fantastic places and try the incredible food.
Favreau, who wrote and directed Chef as well, could have played it safe and gone for the typical storyline of throwing a tragic event or disaster in the middle of the film for the characters to triumph over in order to make the success bitter sweet, but I loved the fact that they kept it simple and just delighted the audience with heart warming, real feeling, good old fashioned enjoyment. I LOVED Chef, and left the cinema feeling very content that the world isn’t a bad place. Now, where can I get myself a Cubanos sandwich this looks that good….