Synopsis: When Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) suddenly quits his job at a prominent Los Angeles restaurant after refusing to compromise his creative integrity for its controlling owner (Dustin Hoffman), he is left to figure out what’s next. Finding himself in Miami, he teams up with his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara), his friend (John Leguizamo) and his son to launch a food truck. Taking to the road, Chef Carl goes back to his roots to reignite his passion for the kitchen — and zest for life and love.
Release Date: May 9, 2014 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Drama, Comedy
Jon Favreau’s Chef is a delicious movie. It’s the type of movie that not only nourishes you with its subject matter; it warms your heart with a wholesome story about rediscovering your passion and the value of family. It’s easily one of Favreau’s more accomplished films purely as a writer/director, and, strangely, it’s also his most personal – weaving a tale using the culinary industry as a corollary for his tenure in Hollywood.
At Chef‘s core is the story of Carl Casper (Favreau), a hotshot chef who cut his teeth on the line in Miami, and is now trying to make waves in Los Angeles. However, with the move to LA came a high-stress position running someone else’s kitchen – something that, after a few years, has worn thin on Casper’s patience. Casper’s aspirations of building off his initial success have given way to complacency, and with it neglect for almost everything in his life, most especially his passion for cooking and his son Percy (Emjay Anthony).
Carl still has a chance to make his mark, though, when a highly touted food critic prepares to dine at his restaurant, but things don’t go as planned. Actually, they go pretty badly, and Carl ends up without a job. But with that newfound lack of employment comes the opportunity for Carl to rediscover his passion for cooking by taking his talents to the people. He, Percy, and close friend Martin (John Leguizamo from Ride Along) buy a food truck and set off on a road trip to win back Carl’s pride and help him rediscover his love of cooking.
While Chef is certainly a road trip movie wherein neglectful father learns to reconnect with son, it’s greatest success is its depiction of food and the art of cooking. Favreau and cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau (Thor: The Dark World) shoot the food-specific scenes in Chef as if they are filming a painter and canvas. It doesn’t matter whether Carl is chopping cucumber or cooking a grilled cheese sandwich, every single food item in this film has a tantalizing quality that will leave you salivating. It doesn’t hurt that Favreau very much looks and acts the part of the chef. The life of the chef and the art of cooking are subject matters not often covered in films, but regardless Favreau sets a new benchmark here. Don’t watch Chef on an empty stomach, you will regret it.
Underneath Chef‘s flashy exterior is a surprisingly sweet story about a father connecting with his son. It’s a little on the nose in terms of Casper’s characterization as the absentee father, but the acting is strong enough and the story is unique enough that any slight faults feel insubstantial. Favreau has also filled the movie with lots of colorful side characters, like Carl’s ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara from “Modern Family”) and her ex-husband Marvin (The Avengers‘ Robert Downey Jr.). Like a plate of food, a successful film is only as good as its accompaniments, and Favreau has made sure Chef‘s cast is bursting with flavor.
Food puns aside, Chef is a sublime, self-contained story that works on a variety of levels, and it all starts with Favreau. His script and his filmmaking help breathe life to the subject matter and his acting roots the character of Carl in a modern context. You believe in Favreau’s performance and you connect with this world. Most importantly, the film is bursting with energy, from the kinetic cinematography to the upbeat soundtrack, to the point you feel a part of Carl’s journey. Chef is easily one of the year’s best films and should not be missed.
From a purely surface level perspective, Chef‘s script is nothing too extraordinary. The story of a short-tempered but talented professional who loses his job and tries to find redemption by going back to his roots has been done before. But underneath Chef‘s atypical story is a very personal one for Favreau. You’d have to know Favreau’s career path from indie filmmaker to Iron Man director to his struggles post-Cowboys and Aliens to fully understand what makes Chef such a personal story, but, in a way, you don’t. Favreau has put it all out there in his script for Chef, citing how his early success led to complacency and how it was only after failure that he was able to take a step back and seek out his true passion. Carl Casper uses his El Jefe food truck to recapture his love of cooking, and Jon Favreau uses Chef to recapture his love of filmmaking. It’s that additional layer which elevates Chef‘s script to another level.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Jon Favreau
- Screenwriter(s): Jon Favreau
- Cast: Jon Favreau (Carl Casper)John Leguizamo (Martin)Bobby Cannavale (Tony) Scarlett Johansson (Molly)Dustin Hoffman (Riva)Sofia Vergara (Inez)Amy Sedaris (Jen)Robert Downey Jr. (Marvin)Oliver Platt (Ramsey Michel)
- Editor(s): Robert Leighton
- Cinematographer: Kramer Morhenthau
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA