Friday, May 16, 2014

Chef Movie Review

Jon Favreau and John Leguizamo (r) stars in Chef

Top Chef

Cut me to my core, and you'll find a foodie at heart. Pair my love of food with an early morning screening at AMC Mazza (Club Cinema, no less) and you have the makings of something special. What's all the fuss about? Jon Favreau's Chef, a lesson in culinary authenticity and entertainment... with a splash of "yeah right, dream on" for added flavor. It may not be cinematic gold (it trends syrupy sweet at times) but it delivers a taste of everything I like to see in a movie (including Scarlett Johansson.) Cue applause.

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: 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.

What’s Best: Favreau assembles a dream team of talented actors (terrific casting) and manages to pull off the normally impossible task of directing, producing, starring in and writing the same movie (with success.) There's plenty of story to fill up its nearly two-hour runtime, not to mention miles of funny; but most of all, it's authentic. At least the parts that deal with cooking. Close-up shots of chopping, dicing and slicing are enough to prod even the pickiest of eaters into open, unabashed salivation. Don't ask how; but Favreau manages to turn the creation of a simple grilled cheese sandwich into a work of art. Stir in a batch of life lessons, and you have an easy-to-follow recipe for success.

What’s Not: Favreau is one of my favorite guys in Hollywood; but "pairing up" with ScarJo and SofĂ­a Vergara? I can only assume Halle Berry & Kate Upton were too busy to play one-night stands. Don't get me wrong... I'd love to do the same thing, but greedy is greedy (even in the movies.)

Best Line: Double Oscar-winner Hoffman plays a convincing bad guy (who's really not that bad.) Riva wants to keep the status quo, 'I think you should play your hits,' while Casper wants desperately to show he can do more. Riva responds, as any good owner would, 'Be an artist on your own time.' This can't end well, can it?

Overall: Chef makes for a delicious couple of hours, and showcases its' star and creator's many considerable talents. Casper knows how to seduce ('Why don't I make you something to eat?) and throw down ('You wouldn't know a good meal if it sat on your face!) but he won me over with subtle moves (most of which take place in the kitchen.) All cooks are insecure and needy to some degree, and Favreau captures (and conveys) each of those qualities superbly... right down to a self-deprecating "dramatic weight gain," that critic Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt) insensitively attributes to, "eating all the dishes that come back bad." It's lines like that, which force accomplished chefs to open their own food truck business. It's movies like Chef that make me glad I'm a film critic.