In this day and age of social media and designer cookery, a film combining the two was inevitable. Luckily, the man to do it was Jon Favreau, who put the big-budget aside and set off to making one of the most charming films of the year.
Centered around Carl Casper (Favreau), a neglectful husband, an absent father and general goofball who has one passion – his job as the head chef of a prestigious bistro. When the deadly combination of a lack of creative freedom and a scathing review forces Carl to dump his job, he buys a food truck and goes to the roots of his cooking talents, all the while bonding with his son. It sounds pedestrian and basic, but Favreau crafts a really sweet story out of this premise.
It is impossible to go wrong with the cast Favreau assembled. Sofia Vergara actually proves she isn’t just the shouty, feisty Latina that Modern Family would have you believe, and she actually gives a relatively good, understated performance. Bobby Cannavale and John Leguizamo once again give consistently great performances and continue to show they are the best “sleazeball thespians” around. Oliver Platt continues his omnipotence in film and television with a suitably nasty performance as Ramsey Michel (has there ever been a more obvious name for a food critic?). Dustin Hoffman isn’t acting very much lately, so it is really great to see him once again play a challenging role, even if it is that of a meticulous restaurant owner in a small but memorable role.
To pinpoint exactly what made Chef succeed is difficult. Perhaps it lies in the fact that Favreau didn’t try too hard, and stuck to creating a sweet, small film as opposed to one that would appease the masses was incredibly smart. He knew some people will hate this film for its lack of cliche and predictability – this is one of the few films of this genre I’ve seen that doesn’t obey the prerequisite structure of storytelling and goes its own way.
The film is very likable, very sweet and very funny, and thus it is incredibly endearing and really fun viewing. Favreau really puts his all into this film, and if anything, it reminds us that Jon Favreau may very well be one of the most underrated directors of our time, and that the man who made big-budget blockbusters like Iron Man is also capable of smaller-scale fare (Elf, anyone?). A really sweet and funny film that you’d be hard-pressed not to love.