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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Movie Review - Chef

Chef (2014)
Starring Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, Emjay Anthony, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johannson, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Bobby Canavale, and Robert Downey, Jr. 
Directed by Jon Favreau
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

Chef certainly isn't aiming to be anything deep, but director and screenwriter Jon Favreau creates a lovely glimpse at a father/son relationship, the simplicity of which we don't often see on screens in this day and age.  Chef details the story of chef Carl Casper (Favreau) who has worked in a moderately ritzy restaurant owned by Riva (Dustin Hoffman) for years, but has really been unable to create unique dishes as Riva wants to maintain the status quo because customers are still pouring in.  When a food blogger/critic (Oliver Platt) comes to the establishment one evening, he writes online that Carl's food is tired, old school, and lacking any modern flair.  Upon receiving the bad review, Carl goes a bit berserk online thanks to a visit from his son Percy (Emjay Anthony) who introduces his father to Twitter.  After Carl inadvertently tweets numerous public jabs at the critic that he thinks were sent privately, Carl becomes a bit of a laughing stock across the country at which point he realizes that he's not happy doing what he does anymore and decides to take a little respite to Miami with Percy and his ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) where he rediscovers his passion for food and his desire to show that to the public.

Chef is a movie broken up into two halves -- the first with Carl at the restaurant and the second with Carl reinventing his food passions by opening up a popular food truck.  While the halves certainly carry a similar tone to them, the film feels almost like two different movies at times.  Fortunately, Carl's relationship with his son is the through line between the two and it's this paternal connection that feels incredibly comforting and realistic.  In fact, what really makes Chef shine is that all of the relationships here -- Carl with his ex-wife, boss, co-workers -- carry a sense of believability and genuineness.  Favreau as a writer seems to have a real grasp of dialog -- his characters' moments with his son are particularly authentic despite the fact that his son seems a bit too tech-savvy for his own good at age ten.

Nonetheless, there's a charm that exudes in Chef thanks to the writing and the cast, all of whom really take Favreau's words and make them come to life.  Sofia Vergara is at her least annoying here, playing a loving mom and ex-wife to Carl -- once again, the ex-wife/husband relationship exudes a credible believability despite being a shockingly pleasant association we don't typically see displayed in films.  John Leguizamo as Carl's friend and co-worker adds some character to the mix and Scarlett Johansson and Dustin Hoffman keep the first half of the film buzzing with some interesting camaraderie with Carl.

In the end, Chef is maybe a bit too simple for its own good -- I compliment the film quite highly above, but I found it a little bland at the start and it took me three sittings to make it past the first hour.  While that sounds a bit damning, I simply don't think I was giving Chef a big enough chance.  Had it dropped an F-bomb or two or a sexual innuendo out of the equation, Chef would've been fit for all ages, exuding a sweetness that I frankly wasn't expecting, but truly enjoyed.

The RyMickey Rating:  B

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