Re-enact old times and see this movie before dining at a restaurant. You will warmly embrace every moment of that evening.
Though it won’t win an Oscar nomination unless it is for the inventive screenplay, you will never see a more enjoyable movie this year than Chef. Written, directed and starring Jon Favreau, it is a complete cinematic pleasure.
Jon Favreau is a joy to behold, and he finally is able to display his fabulous talents. While you might remember him for his small role in last year’s The Wolf of Wall Street and Iron Man 3, he more often than not has appeared in lightweight films like Couples Retreat (2009) and Four Christmases (2008). He now proves that he is an acting force to be wrestled with in the future.
If you love to cook, or simply enjoy eating good food, this is a film that you can’t miss. Mr. Favreau, looking like a reborn James Galdofini, plays Carl Casper, a skilled divorced chef whose life is in turmoil. Incurring the ire of his unmovable boss (Dustin Hoffman) when he tries to reinvent his menu when a food critic (Oliver Platt) lashes out at him in print, he is subsequently fired following an hysterically bitter restaurant encounter between the three unfortunately shown on YouTube.
His reputation in ruins, Carl reluctantly accompanies his ex-wife, the beautiful and talented Sofia Vergara, and their 10-year old son on her business trip to Miami. Gaining the financial backing of Ms. Vergara’s first husband, played with outlandish joy by Robert Downey, Jr., Carl reinvents himself by starting a mobile food service in a truck named “el Jefe”.
What follows is an enthralling journey as Mr. Favreau, accompanied by his distant son and a close friend played with spirit by John Leguizamo, drive back to California. They stop at various cities along the way, including New Orleans, and father and son gradually find each other in a journey that will capture your heart.
The movie is helped enormously by all of the performances, including contributions from Bobby Cannavale and Scarlett Johansson. Mr. Cannavale is a close friend of Carl who took over his old job, while Ms. Johansson is a knock-out playing the hostess at Carl’s prior California restaurant. She is as charming as she is funny, and I forgive her for her lamentable role in the disastrous role in last year’s Under the Skin.
However, it is the performance of Emjay Anthony, playing the 10-year old Percy, who will delight you at every turn. A young boy in pursuit of a relationship with his father, he proves to be far more adept on the internet than the old man. Carl reminded me of myself at that point.
While the scenery throughout the film is splendid, it is the music that commands your attention. It involves live singers at times, and you need to hunt down those songs as some are available on iTunes. Nonetheless, wait until you see Favreau and Leguizamo singing “Sexual Healing” on the road in front of the stunned Percy.
This is a movie about a chef’s love of cooking that enables him to rediscover the inherent meaning of life. It makes for a tremendous bookend to my recently reviewed The Fault in Our Stars.
Chef is one of those films where it is next to impossible to leave the theater without a grin on your face.