Review #1,044 - Chef (2014)
Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman,
Plot: 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.
Rating: NC16 for language, including some suggestive references
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
While the film is littered with stars like Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson and Dustin Hoffman doing extended cameos, the true stars of this wonderful and playful comedy are Jon Favreau and the food. There's enough mouthwatering edible stuff to fill up a ten-page restaurant menu, and like the excellent sushi documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011), one must not see it with an empty stomach.
The use of close-ups on both food in preparatory flux, and actors' facial reactions after taking test bites allow us to salivate without embarrassment in public. Unless you are on a hunger strike for political reasons or otherwise, I strongly recommend you to see Chef, the latest film by Jon Favreau that is incidentally also one of the year's unexpected triumphs.
Favreau writes, directs, produces and stars in the leading role as famous chef Carl Casper who is slammed by a prominent food critic for his uncreative and bland delicacies. Carl becomes infamous overnight after he lets out a vulgar tirade that goes viral, which is not coincidentally the movie's most hilarious sequence. The film follows him as he tries to redeem himself in more ways than one.
At once a light comedy gem and a heartfelt story about family and passion, Chef is a delight to watch that builds its foundation on a superb script that focuses on Carl's eccentricities as a father (to a kid he sees only on weekends after his divorce), and as a chef. It is difficult not to like him no matter how hard you try.
Also effective as a playful commentary on how we use (or are clueless on how to use) Twitter, Chef cleverly brings social media into play as a marketing tool for Carl, both for better and worse. There is also the painfully obvious jab at critics. Favreau who has had his fair share of critical disdain with films such as Cowboys & Aliens (2011) would have suffered one of cinema's zaniest ironies if Chef was bashed up by critics.
Fortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case here. And I must say this could just be the definitive film of his career. Chef is a first-rate comedy and more. It is one of the more purely enjoyable romps of the summer, and quite simply one of the best films of the year. It also shows what a talent Favreau is both behind and in front of the camera.
Verdict: One of the year's unexpected triumphs, this is a first-rate comedy with a heart and lotsa mouthwatering food.
GRADE: A (9/10 or 4.5 stars)
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