Chef

Movie Review #940

chef

Limited release on May 9, 2014. Nationwide release on May 30, 2014. Comedy. This film is rated R for language, including some suggestive references. Runs 114 minutes. An American production. Written and directed by Jon Favreau. Cast: Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Emjay Anthony, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Sofía Vergara, Oliver Platt, Amy Sedaris, and Robert Downey Jr.

A LIGHT, QUICK, ENJOYABLE COMEDY WITH 2014 WRITTEN ALL OVER IT.

★★★½
By Alexander Diminiano

Meet Carl Casper (Jon Favreau), a divorced man who can never seem to do right at work. He’s plagued by the horror of receiving a two-star review from the most prestigious food blogger in Miami, and his inability to bond with his son. He intends to invite the food blogger back to the restaurant, in hopes of offering him a menu entirely different from the one he disliked…and ends up making a fool of himself when he flips out at the food critic.

Casper’s outburst happens in front of dozens of customers, most armed with iPhones, so when videos of his tirade spread via social media, Casper becomes an internet sensation. He also loses his job as the main chef at the restaurant, which leads him to decide on his next profession: running a food truck. He’s joined by his son and a former co-worker, Martin, who would rather work in a food truck than at the restaurant (John Leguizamo).

I loved how fresh this story was. The movie has 2014 written all over it. The emphasis on social media here acts not as product placement but as a demonstration of the modern world. The fact that Casper and his buddy Martin are so technology-illiterate makes for a great deal of laughs here. In one scene, Casper’s son is setting him up with a Twitter account. Casper, clueless about Twitter, asks, “Is this for sex?” In another scene, a cop stops by to take a picture with Casper, explaining to him that he’s been a fan ever since he saw his outburst on Tosh.0. Not only is Martin unfamiliar with Tosh.0, he doesn’t have the slightest clue how to take a picture on an iPhone.

“Chef” is a turning point in Jon Favreau’s career; a departure from his near-decade of work in the science fiction genre. This is Favreau’s first time since 2000’s “Made” in which he produces, directs, writes, and stars. It’s also his first independent film since “Made”. Granted, that makes its cheesy Hollywood ending seem a little ironic, but for the most part, “Chef” is nothing less than one of the best indie movies of the last year. The ensemble cast here is terrific. Dustin Hoffman, Robert Downey Jr., Sofía Vergara, Scarlett Johansson–even if they’re all showing up for what feels like extended cameos, they add a great lot to the movie. With Robert Leighton’s superb, superb editing, and a soundtrack complete with New Orleans jazz, the movie flies by as a brisk whirlwind of fun.

P.S.: “Chef” is a very funny movie, but not nearly as funny as its Mexican poster. Look it up. I dare you to try and suppress your laughter.

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