Monday, June 09, 2014

Chef (2014 film)

Written, directed, and starring Jon Favreau, Chef is the story of a once-revered chef who becomes creatively frustrated as a public meltdown forces him to start all over again as he buys a food truck and takes his young son on a cross-country trip to regain his love for cooking. The film is a return to Favreau’s independent roots after a period of high-budget blockbuster features as the film explores a chef not only returning to his own roots but also try to remember why he wanted to become a chef. Also starring Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Oliver Platt, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr., EmJay Anthony, Amy Sedaris, and Dustin Hoffman. Chef is a dazzling and enjoyable film from Jon Favreau.

What happens to a chef when he is forced to make the food he doesn’t enjoy making as he is forced to start over again by going on his own and run a food truck? That is essentially what the film is about where Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) was someone who used to enjoy cooking but working in a posh Los Angeles restaurant where he is forced to cook meals he’s done so many times has him stifled as well as becoming neglectful towards his 10-year old son Percy (EmJay Anthony). After a negative review from a food critic who once championed him, he sends the critic a message on Twitter unaware that his response when viral forcing Carl to meltdown and lose his job. With the help of his ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) and her ex-husband Marvin (Robert Downey Jr.), Carl buys a food truck as he takes Percy and his loyal friend Martin (John Leguizamo) across the country in the hopes to find joy again as a chef and regain the family he had neglected.

Jon Favreau’s screenplay doesn’t just explore a man being compromised by food critics and people he is forced to work for but also have him lose sight of what is really important in his life. For Carl, being a chef was something he was good at as he wanted to make some good food for people to enjoy but his boss (Dustin Hoffman) wants him to make the same menus that had made their restaurant one of the best in Los Angeles. For Favreau, it’s a story that showcases the frustrations of doing something for other people and not enjoy it as he allows the character of Carl to try and find something where he can enjoy cooking again. By taking Percy on the road with Martin, Carl not only tries to find ways to find that joy in cooking but sharing it with his son who would inspire him to be not just a better cook but also a better father. Though it’s a story that is predictable, it is filled with a lot of heart as well as humor where Favreau blends all sorts of genres and more.

Favreau’s direction is pretty simple in the way he presents these different storylines while going for compositions and such that are very simple. Even with the use of social media and cell-phone cameras, Favreau would use these tools to express a man trying to get his name and reputation back in a new world where everything is almost public. Shooting in various locations such as Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, Austin, and other places in America. Favreau goes for a lot of a medium shots and close-ups while also infusing some stylish shots to play in to Carl Casper’s desire to find happiness again. The food truck that he would eventually buy would become a character in the film as it represented Carl’s rebirth while the food itself is just as important. It showcases the beauty and love Carl has in making food where it looks so good that it will have the audience wanting to eat it so bad. Overall, Favreau crafts a very delightful and delicious film about a chef seeking to regain his love for cooking with the help of family and friends.

Cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau does excellent work with the cinematography from not just the vibrancy of the many locations in its exterior scenes but also the low-key lighting in some of its interiors such as the restaurants and kitchens. Editor Robert Leighton does amazing work with the editing as it‘s straightforward in its approach to humor and drama while using some stylish montages including one notable montage in the film‘s third act that proves to be very effective. Production designer Denise Pizzini, with set decorator Bryan Venegas and art director Alicia Maccarone, does fantastic work with the set pieces from the look of the restaurant that Carl worked at to the food truck where he would find his joy again.

Costume designer Laura Jean Shannon does nice work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual with the exception of the clothes that Inez wears. Visual effects supervisor Bryan Godwin does terrific work with the minimal visual effects which involved tweet pop-ups appearing and the little Twitter bird flying around so it would help Carl get a good word of mouth. Sound editor Steve Slanec does superb work with the sound from the way the kitchens sound to some of the raucous atmosphere of the locations. Music supervisor Mathieu Schreyer does great work with the film‘s soundtrack with its mix of soul, jazz, and Cuban-jazz music to play into its sense of vibrancy that includes some low-key jazz-inspired pieces by Lyle Workman.

The casting by Sarah Finn is incredible as it features some notable appearances from Amy Sedaris as Inez’s publicist Jen who suggests to Carl to do a reality show, Jose C. Hernandez as Inez’s musician father, Bobby Cannavale as Carl’s sous chef Tony who would reluctantly replace Carl after he got fired, and Robert Downey Jr. in a very funny performance as Inez’s ex-husband Marvin who would give Carl the food truck. Scarlett Johansson is wonderful as the restaurant hostess Molly who is a lover of sorts for Carl as she thinks it’s best that he quit his job while Oliver Platt is terrific as the food critic Ramsay Michel who blasted Carl’s cooking at the restaurant. Dustin Hoffman is fantastic as Carl’s boss Riva who forces Carl to make the same menu that had made him famous as Hoffman has this great monologue about playing the hits that would frustrate Carl.

EmJay Anthony is amazing as Carl and Inez’s son Percy who wants to be with his dad while learning the ropes in being a good cook. John Leguizamo is excellent as Carl’s loyal line chef Martin who joins Carl on the road while being very funny as he provides lots of laughs and enthusiasm to his role. Sofia Vergara is superb as Carl’s ex-wife Inez who is still friendly with her ex-husband as well as wanting to help him where it’s a low-key yet effective performance from the actress. Finally, there’s Jon Favreau in a marvelous performance as Carl Casper as this chef who used to love to cook but becomes frustrated by being compromised as well as being a neglectful father as he tries to regain his joy to cook and his family as it’s a role where Favreau gets to be funny as well as show some heart in his performance.

Chef is a remarkable film from Jon Favreau. Joined by a superb ensemble cast and a fun soundtrack, the film is a truly delightful comedy that explores the world of cooking and a chef’s desire to find joy again in cooking. For people who enjoy films about food and cooking, this film will definitely have them desiring the food they see and wish it was available to them. In the end, Chef is a phenomenal film from Jon Favreau.

Jon Favreau Films: (Made) - (Elf) - (Zathura) - Iron Man - Iron Man 2 - (Cowboys & Aliens)

© thevoid99 2014


ruth said...

I quite like the sound of this, tho I probably be very hungry after watching it, ahah. I'll definitely give this a rent.

thevoid99 said...

I suggest eating something before seeing the film though it might not help. If you're a vegetarian or a vegan, I can't recommend the film since it features a lot of tender, juicy meat and beignets.