PLOT: Carl Casper is one of the most popular chefs in Los Angeles. Yet when a public confrontation with one of the most influential bloggers on the web goes viral, he finds himself out of a job. When he decides to take a chance on purchasing a food truck, he begins to rediscover not only his joy of cooking but the family he once took for granted as well.
Jon Favreau has concocted quite a tasty treat with his latest, the delightful character driven feature CHEF. The story of a celebrity chef rediscovering his love of life, family and food clearly comes from a very special place for the filmmaker. By collecting an impressive cast including Marvel regulars Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr., he has given us a feature film that is infused with a real sense of energy and love. From the food down to the various locations and the wide range of music, Favreau seems right at home in this appealing story.
As writer, director and leading man, Favreau stars as hot shot chef Carl Casper who works at a trendy restaurant in Los Angeles. After he is given a terrible review from a well-respected food blogger named Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt), he unfortunately discovers the world of Twitter and social media with the help of his young ten-year-old son Percy (Emjay Anthony). This discovery leads to a huge number of followers on the famous site as well as an embarrassing confrontation on YouTube when the blogger returns to the restaurant on a dare. Suddenly Casper finds himself out of work and dealing with a son he hardly knows with an ex-wife trying to convince him to purchase a food truck.
For a small and intimate movie, Favreau sure has taken what he has learned from his blockbusters. With the help of cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau (THOR: THE DARK WORLD and the upcoming TERMINATOR: GENESIS), he opens the audience’s eyes to a delectable world of food. Guaranteed you will be craving a meal the second you walk out of this flick. Of course CHEF soon offers on its menu a family friendly – with a hell of a lot of cursing mind you – road trip, the music and soul of the places they visit is far more impressive than any travel show. The flavor and the atmosphere of the recipes and the culture is infused into this father-son story so well, that at times you may forget that this is truly a father-son story.
As Casper’s young son, Emjay Anthony has a very authentic and endearing chemistry with his on-screen dad. The dynamic between the two is also helped with the casting of Casper’s ex-wife, the vivacious Sofia Vergara. Had this been another director, this entire film could have felt contrived and painfully sappy. Maybe it was the constant use of the word “f*ck” but the family dynamic here never fell into that kind of sentimental overload.
As far as the rest of the cast, it is impossible to not be impressed by this collection of talent. From the previously mentioned Platt, Downey Jr. and Johansson to such exciting names as Dustin Hoffman, Amy Sedaris and Bobby Cannavale, Favreau has given us a collection of likable characters. As much as you might think, it never really felt like simple stunt casting. John Leguizamo is featured in a major supporting role as one of Casper’s loyal friends and he helps brings it all to life. The scenes with he, Favreau and Anthony on the road are so much fun that I almost wish more of the film had been spent on this terrific trio.
One of the most intriguing ideas behind CHEF is how Favreau’s character reacts to the negative review and the public reaction to it. Seemingly he offers a personal look at his own frustrations with the overwhelming critical acceptance from something like IRON MAN to the lambasting he received for COWBOYS & ALIENS. It is a clever way to deal with his experiences with fame, and still create an emotional and very heartfelt comedy about family, fame and everything in between.
There is a lot of passion in CHEF. Jon Favreau offers up a striking and very personal look that may not be autobiographical, but it certainly feels that way. The love of food, music and most importantly the family that we sometimes take for granted is explored in a smart and touching way. CHEF is a wonderful film. It is one that, much like great food, should be savored and enjoyed.