Chef (2014) Review

Freshly cooked, well presented, thoroughly enjoyed.

Expecting a cringey feel-good family drama, this was confirmed. But the surprise? – It was actually good!
Long has it been that a simple film about family, creative passions and modern life has been so spot on, so effortlessly entertaining and so uplifting.
In the last decade films have either been trapped in convention without finding any new inspiration or originality or have found success by exploring extremes, marginality or surrealism.
But back is the drama that actually has plot, actually comments on the amusing absurdities of today’s society, entertains and inspires but is believable and honest at the same time.

Chef tells the story of restaurant head chef, Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) feeling creatively restricted by his employer and owner of the restaurant, Riva (Dustin Hoffman) the resentment of which causes him to ruin his respectable reputation and find himself unemployed, divorced and with a broken relationship with his son. But Casper rediscovers his passion through starting up a food-truck business, finding success and reuniting the family.

Yes, Chef was a pleasant surprise. And it was all down to Jon Favreau, as it was his writing-directing-producing-acting power that drove the film to success. Proof that a good actor can successfully convert to acclaimed film maker.

One main factor of a successful comedy is the writing and acting rapport. The dialogue was witty and amusing delivered with excellent comic timing, particularly by Favreau, John Leguizamo (friend) and Emjay Anthony (son) the three of which made a fantastic comedy trio.
The relationships were believable (although perhaps less so with Sofia Vergara as the mother) and the characterization was successful – particularly Leguizamo’s character, whose energy and charisma brought an extra dimension to the light comedy tone of the film.
And let us not forget the celebrity cameos. Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr and Dustin Hoffman all worked great as bit-on-the-side roles, all well-loved actors prepared to reduce their credit billing to increase the validity of the film.

The visual quality was excellent – beautiful shots of gorgeous food, well edited with smart wit and creativity.
Probably one of the man contributions to the feel-good mood, of which I argue is the most persuasive element of the work, is the music – well timed and extremely effective in establishing the tone, the infectiously-danceable jazz/Latin music was perfectly suited to the mood – fun, simple and so uplifting.

…And this is where I run out of steam. Because everything was going so well – feel good but not over cringe-worthy… until the end. The ending was poorely fitted to the believable nature of the rest of the film, reducing from an uplifting but endearing finale that the rest of the film promised and had so much potential for. Instead everything worked out too well. Mrs Doubtfire has been and gone, Favreau, and you’re doing no favours by resolving ALL the disruptions in the films plot – success in his adventure, the father-son relationship, remarrying his wife and even being offered the perfect job by the villain of the whole story, critic Ramsey Michael (who I can’t stop thinking looks the spitting image of Michael Moore) I mean come on…! Poor choice, Favreau. A subtle ending with a middle ground would have worked, but instead you took the idea of happy ending and ran away with it, too far past the finish line. The only thing that saved this was the absence of sickening cheesy dialogue. Thank goodness.

But apart from that glitch, Fraveau’s Chef was enough impress, unlike that chocolate lava cake. Which I think was molten by the way… Finally a film that is relevant, entertaining, endearing, well-made and oh-so-very uplifting.
4 Stars.

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