I’m not going to lie; ‘Chef’ is a movie that was kind of made to make me happy. A foodie by nature, and by choice, there are few things to me as rewarding as eating a delicious meal, and the more experimental, interesting and unique the better. One of the few things that is actually better than eating that meal, for me at least, is cooking it myself. Yup, not only am I a foodie by nature, but I’m a beast in the kitchen (yes, I’m modest). Food is, outside of my children, my biggest passion. It makes me happier than anything else in the world. That’s what I do, it’s how I unwind. Open a bottle of wine, heat up the stovetop and let the minutes turn into hours as everything just melts away into a pot, pan, skillet or all of the above.
The fact that my dream is to one day own my own food truck was only icing on this cinematic cake for me.
‘Chef’ tells the story of Carl Casper, a successful chef working for a hardnosed restaurateur who is stunting Carl’s creativity by forcing him to stay within a box he’s not comfortable staying inside. Carl is sort of a mess, personally. He’s arrogant, yet completely vulnerable; alienated from his son and his ex-wife and living in a world where his food is the only thing that matters because it is the only thing he can truly control. When he’s forced to cook food he isn’t passionate about for an important food critic, he’s annihilated in the blogs and basically feels violated, but when he fires back he winds up losing his job. At a loss for where to go from here, he is prodded by his ex to start a food truck, cooking the food he loves and regaining his passion. He’s hesitant, but with the proper backing and friends by his side, soon Carl is back in the game. Finding his passion sparks a true happiness in his heart that inspired him to make amends, not only with his ex-wife, but more importantly with the son he let slip between his fingers.
‘Chef’ has its issues, especially in the third act. The scripting up until that point feels purposeful and fresh and then it kind of falls apart, drawing to a climax that feels abrupt and unfulfilling despite being semi-fulfilling (if that makes any sense). The fact that Scarlett Johansson’s character is completely disregarded, when she was a seeming integral part of the first half, is part of the problem. It does feel like Favreau wasn’t sure how he was going to tie up loose ends, and so he just moved on to a different set of points. But, despite this glaring issue, the film still works. The ensemble works really well, the pacing is great, the repartee between the whole cast is incredible and the food…MY GOD the food has me salivating all over my keyboard right now. Favreau strikes a really nice balance between arrogant and confident in his portrayal of Carl, creating a man who we can believe in. Some have balked at Favreau casting the likes of Johansson and Vergara as his leading ladies, but in the scope of this story it makes sense. First, Favreau is far from unattractive, and he’s playing a confident, talented chef. Women fall for that kind of man all the time, even if he has a beer gut.
With a brilliant selection of music to accompany every scene, and a fresh sense of editing to make this a very visually appealing film (I do love how social media is a plot point in the film, and it is incorporated into the look of the film as well), ‘Chef’ is a film that is rewarding all the way around. A sharp look at how misguided passions can derail our inner happiness, ‘Chef’ is fun and smart and succeeds, despite losing its way a bit in the end.
Overall, I give this a B+. It has it's faults, but it mostly rises above them. Also, total props to Favreau for cooking all his own food!