Director: Jon Favreau
Starring: Jon Favreau; John Leguizamo; Bobby Cannavale; Emjay Anthony; Scarlett Johansson; Dustin Hoffman; Robert Downey, Jr.; Sofia Vergara.
Plot: A chef who loses his restaurant job starts up a food truck in an effort to reclaim his creative promise, while piecing back together his estranged family.
Jon Favreau’s latest vision is a star driven character piece with a feel-good script called “Chef”. Released in 2014, the movie written and directed by the Iron Man 1 & 2 director is technically efficient and the script is neatly put together but the movie isn’t without problems.
The biggest issue with Chef is that it’s an R rated family movie. Yeah, you read that right. Favreau’s movie is laced with profanities, hence its rating, yet can ultimately be defined as a family movie that is reinforcing of the dominant white middle-class hetero-normative ‘restoration of the father figure’. It simply didn’t work as a combination. In fact, this movie seemed like more of the usual white middle-class nonsense of living in big houses, and being able to quit jobs and take vacations that we’ve become accustomed to in the pseudo-indie parts of Hollywood’s film industry as of late. Chef took zero steps to confront issues regarding unemployment despite being centered around a chefs firing from his long-term job, which was disappointing. Instead, Favreau’s movie was more of an idealistic right wing vision of being able to start again at a moments notice and truly make something of yourself with some good ol’ hard work. It offered nothing by the way of social commentary and was instead the very personal journey of a man and his relationship to his son; something that only grew through his chasing of the American dream.
Social commentary aside, Chef was able to present a positive story of new beginnings and reforming old ties, no matter the circumstances. Favreau’s performance was solid alongside Emjay Anthony (who played his son) and their relationship seemed real, specifically in their moments of interaction with uncle figure and best friend to Favreau’s protagonist Carl, Martin (Leguizamo). John Leguizamo’s character was perhaps the most lovable of the bunch, with his now trademark voice being of benefit to the overall feel-good nature of this film, and with the odd appearance from megastars Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr and Dustin Hoffman thrown in there, Chef had enough talent and drawing power to maintain engagement through some of its less interesting scenes.
The main thing to recognise about Jon Favreau’s Chef is that it was a simple feel good movie about the family, the likes of which we’ve seen a million times before – yes – but with a slight modern twist and presented with the typically tightly formed gusto of its writer-director. It won’t be winning any awards anytime soon, but it’s a perfectly adequate date movie and even better film to watch with dinner given its appropriately excellent food porn scenes.