Why Chef is Awesome

A delicious delight of feel-good fun.”

Chef is the latest offering from writer, director, actor, producer and all-round funny-man Jon Favreau (best known for Iron Man 1&2), and just like the food his character cooks, it's a true delight to watch. Favreau plays Carl Casper, a Chef that showed great creative promise in his early career, but has since found himself playing it safe with a standard restaurant menu. With his boss (Dustin Hoffman) unwilling to let him change things up and a scathing review from a hugely popular online food critic (Oliver Platt), Carl’s' career is in tatters; that is, until he acquires a food truck and begins a working journey across America to rediscover not just his culinary passions, but a connection to his oft-neglected son and his ex-wife.

Let me make something clear before we begin: Chef does not do, ask or say anything particularly new or boundary-pushing. It's a fairly safe story with safe characters, and there are no surprises or twists. Fortunately, that's a good thing for this film, as it allows it to relax and focus on what it is at it's heart: a funny, feel-good film that will have you leaving the cinema with a smile on your face a warmth in your heart. Clearly, this was a film of passion for Favreau.

You'll be smiling as much as these are by the time you leave

Indicative of his pull in the biz, the film has a very impressive cast, particularly for an indie film of this type; John Leguizamo, Sofia Vergara, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson and the afore-mentioned Dustin Hoffman all make an appearance, and all are pitch perfect. Leguizamo and Vergara are the most prominent of those listed, playing Casper's long time friend and fellow cook, Martin, and his ex-wife, Inez, respectively. Martin leaves his new Sous Chef position to join Carl in the truck, providing some much needed energy and enthusiasm to the business; Leguizamo is charismatic and funny and plays his role well. Inez and Carl, whilst divorced, are on friendly terms, and she often provides a voice of reason and wisdom for him.

Johansson and Hoffman are both fantastic as the Head Waitress, Molly, and the Restaurant Owner, Riva, respectively. They each bring humour and depth to their characters – an impressive feat, considering how little screen time they had – and I enjoyed both of their performances.

RDJ makes a memorable cameo

RDJ appears for a single, but very memorable scene as Inez's eccentric first husband, Marvin, and is the facilitator who provides the beat up old food truck for Carl to start his new career in. There's a definite dash of the charm and charisma we've come to expect from RDJ, but there's also an awkward, ever so slightly creepy and insecure edge to the character that really warps the dynamic between his character and Carl – in a good way!

Youngster Emjay Anthony takes on the role of Carl's neglected son, Percy, and puts in a surprisingly good turn – I should note that the “surprise” part stems from my own cynical and probably unfair outlook on child actors. Anthony brings Percy to life in a way that is both subtle and classy, and I'd be interested in seeing him get some more indie roles in the future.

The Father/Son relationship is at the heart of the films emotional clout

Of course, it's all well and good having your supporting cast put in great turns, but it's the lead actor that has to really pull things together; fortunately for us, Favreau was not phased by the sheer amount of work he took on himself for this film and puts in a great performance that really anchors everything in the film. We can really empathise with and feel for Carl as he struggles through his artistic slump and his rise back to the top, and his under-stated humour brings a lot of genuine laughs.

All in all, this is a beautifully crafted feel-good film with plenty of laughs and smiles and a lovely warm feeling in your heart as you leave the cinema. Whilst I hope that Favreau still works with big budget films, I definitely want to see him do more personal indie films like this.

Final Score: 8/10

This has been Blacksmith, writing for The Awesome Update

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