Chef (2014)

Chef - Jon Favreau, posterDirector: Jon Favreau

Writer: Jon Favreau

Cast: Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Emjay Anthony, Sofia Vergara, Scarlett Johansson, Oliver Platt, Bobby Cannavale

Cert: 15

Running time: 114mins

Year: 2014

 

The lowdown: Iron Man director Jon Favreau goes personal and indie with a small movie that’s big on flavour. Favreau is renowned chef Carl Casper, tired of churning out the same old menu, looking to take his cuisine back to basics by taking his culinary arts on the road in a food truck. A tasty cast including John Leguizamo, Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara and Iron Man chums Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey, Jr provide the filling in a lovingly crafted movie.

Chef - Jon Favreau, Bobby Cannavale, John LeguizamoChef - Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, Emjay Anthony

The full verdict: Chef writer, director, producer and star Jon Favreau sees the movie as an opportunity to reinvigorate his creative mojo. And while leading character Carl is all about the food, it is difficult not to see Favreau’s own run-ins with studio execs in two scenes with restaurateur boss Dustin Hoffman, slapping down Carl’s creativity in favour of the serving up the same old same old everybody likes.

Favreau also allows himself an hilarious meltdown moment with snarky food critic Oliver Platt that will please anyone who has ever seen their work summarily dismissed by the Twittering classes.

And for those who enjoyed Favreau’s Swingers and the underrated hidden gem Made, Chef offers plenty to chew on.

A mid-life crisis drama about a man who finds release in decluttering his life.

A father-son generation gap tale with Favreau ably matched by Anthony, giving a naturalistic performance as Carl’s son Percy, bonding with his dad over social media.

A cross country road movie with Carl and Percy joined in their truck by John Leguizamo’s Martin, giving another magnetic supporting turn that begs the question, why isn’t he in everything?

The plot is loose and leisurely, Favreau not afraid to stop and focus on the preparation of delicious looking meat-heavy grub (mouthwateringly shot by Game of Thrones cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau) or take a detour into Miami’s Little Havana for a spot of nightlife.

Sofia Vergara is memorable as Carl’s supportive ex-wife, as is Johansson as a colleague-cum-occasional flame and a camoe’ing Downey, Jr gets the biggest laughs as someone Carl reluctantly turns to for help.

Soft-centered for sure, and you could accuse Favreau of indulgence and loving his characters too much to offer up any real drama. But it’s hard to imagine anyone (other than Morrissey) not emitting a burp of satisfaction as the credits roll.

Rob Daniel