Saturday, February 14, 2015

Movie Review: "Chef"

Yes, I know I'm late to the party on this one.

Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) is a chef at a popular Los Angeles restaurant. When he first started cooking in Miami, he was bold and creative, and was hailed as one of the culinary scene's hot new chefs, but over the years his opportunities to stray from the constraints of his restaurant's menu have been met with resistance from the owner (Dustin Hoffman), who is most concerned with the bottom line.

When the influential food critic (Oliver Platt) who first called attention to him years ago reviews his cooking, it doesn't go as well as he had hoped. (And that's putting it mildly.) After a (somewhat) accidental Twitter war, Carl finds himself a media sensation for something other than his culinary skills, and is unsure of what his next step should be. But that's not his only problem—since his divorce, his relationship with his 10-year-old son Percy has been strained, as the boy is tiring of being an afterthought, dealing with broken promises, and never doing anything that doesn't involve Carl's job.

Carl's ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) coaxes Carl to accompany her and Percy on a trip to Miami, so he can return to the place where his career got started. She encourages him to visit her first ex-husband (Robert Downey Jr.) and buy a food truck, which might give him the opportunity to recapture his mojo, perhaps while making a little mojo?

Chef, which Favreau also wrote and directed, is an absolutely charming, sweet, and fun movie. Yes, it's utterly predictable, but you're enjoying yourself so much it doesn't seem to matter. Favreau's big, blustery, teddybear-like self is perfect for Carl's character—a man whose self-confidence has always been contingent upon people telling him he's great, and the moment someone says he isn't, he doesn't know what to do with himself. He's a man whose sole focus has been his job for so long—much to the detriment of his marriage and his relationship with his son.

While this is Favreau's movie, the supporting characters do a great job as well, particularly Emjay Anthony as Percy, John Leguizamo as Carl's longtime sous chef, and Scarlett Johansson, who has a small role as the hostess/bartender at Carl's restaurant. Vergara is used in the right amount, and unlike on Modern Family, her accent and her looks really aren't the focus of her character.

You won't want to watch this one on an empty stomach, but you really should watch it. This is one of those sweet movies that make you think about following your own dreams. And who couldn't use a little of that every now and again?

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