Film Review: Chef

This review was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 13th May 2014.

There really should be a warning on the poster of John Favreau’s Chef that informs cinema goers that they must eat before attending a screening. Because if you wander into a midday screening like I did, with nothing but a coffee in the tank, the onscreen depictions of some of the most gorgeous cuisine ever will have you feeling hungry and cheated by your overpriced bland popcorn.

Carl Casper (Favreau) is a chef stuck in a creative rut. Once considered a promising talent, he is now struggling to hold his family life together and work in a restaurant where the owner, Riva (Dustin Hoffman), insists on the same menu day in and out. When a war of words with food blogger Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt) gets out of hand, Casper loses his job and his only option appears to be a dilapidated food truck which he must renovate and then drive from Miami back to Los Angeles with his son Percy (Emjay Anthony) and fellow chef Martin (John Leguizamo), stopping to serve hungry mouths along the way.

Favreau, most recently at the helm of the bloated Iron Man 2, returns to his independent film roots with this delicious morsel of cinema. Part road comedy, part family drama, part MasterChef, Chef has an all star cast. With supporting turns from Scarlett Johansson, Bobby Cannavale, Sofia Vergara and Robert Downey Jr, the film could easily have become a messy ensemble pic, but Favreau smartly keeps the focus on his bearlike protagonist.

To prepare for the role, Favreau apparently spent months working his way up from a kitchen hand to qualified chef and it shows on screen. The opening scenes of Casper preparing ingredients, including a whole pig, in his kitchen will have your mouth watering, unless you are a vegetarian (or a pig). By the time you witness the most amazing depiction of a cheese toastie being made, you’ll be wishing that the candy bar sold sliders and cuban sandwiches.

Casper is a genius in the kitchen but not so strong in the family and fatherhood department. When forced to accept help from his estranged wife’s ex-husband (Downey Jr) in a hilarious scene, the dirty taco truck he accepts is his salvation, career-wise and more importantly, for his relationship with his son. Once on the road, the father and son bonding scenes are heartwarming, without stepping into saccharine territory.

With a soundtrack to die for, Chef is a gem amongst the bangs and crashes of endless superhero movies. With uniformly strong performances throughout, Favreau has crafted a concoction that is as tasty and satisfying as the dished created on the screen. Highly recommended.

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Published in: on May 12, 2014 at 00:12  Leave a Comment  
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