by Nadin P.
All you need is love. And a good sandwich.
Chef, directed by and starring Jon Favreau as Carl Casper and featuring Sofia Vergara as Carl’s ex wife Inez and Emjay Anthony as their 10 yeah old son Percy, is a lovely and feel-good film about a restaurant chef, passionate about his line of work. Add Robert Downey Jr. as Inez’s ex and Dustin Hoffman as Casper’s mean boss, and you get yourself a delicious cross-country ride in a food truck.
Meet Carl Casper, a talented chef who turns his career into art. Eager to fight for his love for food and cooking, he quits his job after the food critic Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt) calls his food boring and predictable. Following the advice of his ex wife Inez, and with the help of her first husband Marvin (Rovert Downey Jr.), Casper decides to give her food truck idea a try and serve the food with as much art as it would allow, thus earning his freedom in cooking whatever he finds appropriate instead of sticking to what other people tell him to. There are some bumps on the road but there’s nothing quite like a delicious sandwich to ma everyone happy.
~ Chef was one of those films that don’t seem to be anything special at first glance, or the second, or probably that third, but that make you feel warm and fuzzy for hours after you leave the theatre.
~ The message Chef conveys – follow your dream no matter what. If what you do in life doesn’t make you happy, change it, don’t give up. It may not be simple or easy or particularly comfortable but (1) you’ll most likely regret not taking any action and (2) if you do it right, you’ll be rewarded in the end.
~ Original idea. It’s not often that we see ‘restaurant to food truck’ career growth. In fact, mostly it’s the other way around – someone starts with a small dream and ends up in a kitchen, praised by the boss and the clients. I loved, however, Chef’s take on how sometimes you have to quit and leave everything behind and start over to make it right. Personally, I find this scenario a lot more realistic and, quite frankly, more satisfying on some level.
~ The atmosphere and the music that made the film feel just right. It wasn’t overly dramatic or overly funny or overly anything. It was just what you wanted it to be.
Now, to be fair, there were so many things wrong with this film I’m not sure where to start.
~ The set up was 20 minutes too long. I guess we all knew Carl wasn’t entirely happy within the first 5-10 minutes of the film. There was no need for us to wait for another 30 before the plot finally started moving somewhere.
~ Same goes for the extremely and painfully long photo session with the cop on the beach in Miami.
~ Same goes for the trip from Miami to LA during which we see a lot of sandwiches being made but which could have been a lot more condensed and thus a lot more efficient.
~ Lack of conflict. Which, believe it or not, can be quite annoying. Once we were over the confrontation with Riva (Hoffman) and Ramsey, there was nothing at stake for Carl. Okay, he was humiliated by the video of him making a scene at the restaurant that had gone viral and he did lose his job, but he was unhappy anyway, so we kind of saw it coming eventually. What would happen if the truck thing didn’t work? I assume he’d still be able to get the job, what with his skills and experience. Basically, the protagonist didn’t have any specific agenda other than giving the food truck idea a try. His relationship with his son with sort of a thing that was addressed as something resembling conflict but it wasn’t strong enough to be the center of the plot. Ultimately, there was no climax leading to resolution.
~ The ‘I still love you’ thing between Carl and Inez wasn’t established clearly enough. In the beginning we see them as people who remained friends after the divorce. They accidentally profess their love for each other on the phone but it’s done in passing and isn’t clear enough to justify the remarriage in the end.
~ In general, Chef was aiming for an indie, I believe. Yet, with the stars like Platt, Hoffman, Downey and Johansson, it was neither an indie, nor a mainstream film. It just didn’t have the right atmosphere for either.
~ And speaking of which, the Johansson’s storyline felt abandoned and incomplete. She seemed to have been a big deal in the beginning, and yet we never see her again after the first 20 minutes (give or take), during which she doesn’t do all that much. She’s just… there. And then she isn’t. And we don’t care.
~ And don’t even get me started on Robert Downey Jr. who I adore to no end and who was absolutely useless. Being Favreau’s buddy, he appears in the film as a favor, or just for the hell of it. Which would still make more sense if he had a storyline. Any storyline, really. I mean, ROBERT DOWNEY JR!!!
That said, Chef is delightful. I would absolutely recommend y’all to drop whatever you’re doing and go check it out while you still can. The goods, without a doubt, overweights the bads, and I swear you wouldn’t regret it!
One small word of advice though – don’t go see it if you’re hungry. Or better yet – bring a sandwich with you and feel like you’re a part of the story!