”Chef” is one of the first films I’ve been to in which I haven’t at least watched the trailer for beforehand. It’s one of the few films that took me by surprise when I could not stop smiling to whole way through. It is very near perfection, it’s so simple in story structure that you don’t even notice all the different themes and devices the films works on the audience. Firstly I feel the need to add – eat before you see this film, or have solid plans to eat afterwards, because the food montages in ”Chef” will bring out the glutton in the best of us.
The film is technically one flowing narrative, but for this filmgoer it genuinely felt like two different films. The beginning presents us with master chef Carl Casper (played without parallel by Jon Favreau) who is held back creatively but still in an opportune career with a well-to-do restaurant. His family is still in his life, but held at a large distance and a messy attempt at commitment to his wife Inez and child Percy (Sofia Vergara and Emjay Anthony). Carl is in an on-again-off-again relationship since the separation with his wife Inez, with the waitress at work Molly, played by Scarlett Johansson. Through a series of events that involve the most creative and realistic use of social media, primarily twitter Carl loses his job.
The film goes to document his attempt to get back to finally doing the work that makes him happy – cooking the food he wants to. His son Percy tags along for the ride. They travel around select cities in America, and finally take down the barriers Carl had put up between them – not without struggle. Other great performances the need mentioning include the eclectic Marvin (Robert Downey Jr.) who has very little screen time but plays his oddball character so well you do not want to forget. In fact no single character in this film is forgettable – a wonderful thing to see in film. Another admirable performance goes right to Martin (John Leguizamo) for his excellent portrayal of a loyal friend, committed chef and slightly left-field role model.
There are so many intricate details of this film I could literally write essays about it – but this isn’t film school so I’m going to leave you with the reasons I would absolutely see this film again and let you decide. The first and most important for me personally is the portrayal of the (admittedly few) female characters. They aren’t bitches. This shouldn’t sound as revolutionary as it is, but how many films with male protagonists also feature women who respect themselves, respect each other and do not exist just to drag the plot forward? Not. Very. Many. Secondly the music in this film had everyone tapping his or her feet and awkwardly head bopping in the cinema. The music draws you in, makes you stare in awe at the cooking sequences, and brings emotional scenes to life – and also it’s just kind of groovy. The word groovy is warranted here and I am not sorry for using it.
Lastly this film worked on adults for the same reason films like ”The Lego Movie” (2014) did. It addresses the child in all of us, and for parents it addresses to very real problem of connecting with a child of your own. It thankfully does not use social media as a tool to drift them apart, but shows it can bring them together with its memory sharing capabilities. I was not the only one in the audience who felt happy when Percy did, or felt worried or sad when he did. Percy is the most relatable character in this film – because he loves his parents but knows they are not perfect.
Written and directed by Jon Favreau, it is no surprise the whole thing came together as well as it did. It’s a feel good film that takes you on the journey (literally a road trip of America) to show you the wonder of food mixing with the blessing of family. A must watch.