Yummy viewing treat delivers complex mix of flavors and scents
Jon Favreau’s film, “Chef,” reveals the actor-filmmaker’s love for cooking and great cuisine, which is deliciously showcased in his “personal drama.”
It tells the fictive but “corollary” story of a great chef, portrayed by Favreau himself, who’s been so focused on his love affair with food that he’s neglected his other loves, his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara) and their 10-year-old son (Emjay Anthony).
The movie’s storytelling starts with a special dinner that the chef is preparing for a food critic (Oliver Platt) who has been raving about his edgy culinary creations for years. Favreau’s character wants to thank him by way of an even more surprising meal—but his restaurant’s owner (Dustin Hoffman) insists that he should play it safe and offer his old but popular “hits.”
Well, the critic is disappointed at the chef’s lack of risk-taking—and gives him a bad review! New to the ways of social media, the chef retaliates by pungently retorting to the review online—and his answering salvo quickly goes viral, because everybody loves a big, messy, new-media brawl!
The situation deteriorates further after that, the chef and his employer have their own surly exchange of words, and our nonplussed hero suddenly finds himself with a lot of time on his hands—which, quite fortuitously, he decides to spend with the son he’s been neglecting all this time.
As the film’s focus shifts from the chef’s genius to his personal story, the food factor gets downplayed—but, not forgotten. Rather, the film adds another layer of interest and involvement, which turns out to be as “delicious” as its celebration of good food and the many psychological blessings that come with it.
As the movie’s focus becomes more personal and emotional, its gifted actors are given opportunities to come up with felt and “yummy” portrayals that enrich its cinematic “menu” even more.
Since he’s practically playing himself, only Favreau could have come up with the heartfelt performance he goes to town with here. But, this doesn’t prevent his co-actors from similarly coming on strong—especially Anthony, the young actor who is cast in the plum role of the son he’s been taking for granted.
Quite cannily, too, Favreau has cast gifted actors in key supporting roles, like John Leguizamo, Robert Downey Jr., Hoffman, Platt, Vergara, plus a few more “surprise” appearances along the way.
The complex mix of flavors and scents that their ensemble performances contribute makes “Chef” more than just a personal triumph for its maker and lead star.
To be sure, the film’s interest value occasionally dips, especially when the story is taken on the road as the now discredited chef tries to “find” himself by way of a fledgling food van business. But, the production survives this and other relatively unproductive detours, including an improbable financial rapprochement between chef and critic—and ends up as a really yummy viewing treat!