Chef (2014)

Chef (2014)

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Aren't you guys supposed to be cooking?
Aren’t you guys supposed to be cooking?

Twitter Plot Summary: A bored chef leaves his job in a fancy restaurant to take a food truck cross-country and cook the food he enjoys making.

Five Point Summary:

1. Dustin Hoffman knows what he likes.
2. Just when you think they’re about to get it on… they eat.
3. Robert Downey Jr. Awesomeness.
4. Food truck with added Leguizamo.
5. The power of social media!

A word to the wise – if you plan on watching Chef, you’re best doing so having had a hearty meal beforehand. That and perhaps question the benefits of using Twitter, as it’s 50% food porn and 50% exploring the positive and negative aspects of social media. Favreau is Carl Casper, a talented chef who finds himself in the doldrums over the direction his career has taken, creativity taking a back seat to the same old menu night after night after night. After he has a very public breakdown following a bad review, his outburst becomes a viral hit and he branches out on his own to cook the way he wants to and without outside interference.

The parallels with Favreau’s life and career are apparent to anyone who is aware of the creative struggles he has encountered over the years, wih many fans of his earlier works clamouring for a return to the glory days of Swingers. Casper is restricted by his overbearing employer (a cameo appearance from Dustin Hoffman) which in reality could be seen as the restrictions placed on Favreau by the studios who hired him for big budget output such as Iron Man and Cowboys VS Aliens. This is where the analogy gets a little awkward, as Casper heads out in a beaten up food truck and starts selling Cuban sandwiches. Whilst they do look rather nice, to say the scheme lacks ambition would be underplaying it.

A scene early on between Favreau and Johansson is a sex scene minus the sex, as she looks on in awe as he prepares some food for them both. Her reaction at the end of the scene seals the deal. There’s a decent frisson between Favreau and Sofia Vergara as Casper’s ex-wife, but ultimately this is a story about male bonding and brotherhood over any attempt at portraying gender equality. With that said, Vergara’s character appears to be successful without the need for male assistance, and Johansson’s character does at least appear to enjoy her job as front of house, so it does at least have this going for it.

Little bit odd...
Little bit odd…

Robert Downey Jr featured prominently in the pre-release promotional materials and a number of quotes have been pulled praising his appearance, which given his epic-sized box office appeal is perhaps not such a bad idea. Still, he has one scene and, whilst it is thoroughly entertaining, he’s not a substantial element of the plot. Further to this, there isn’t much depth to Casper’s relationship with his son or ex-wife (although both of these relationships gets just enough to prevent it from being an issue), and John Leguizamo’s Martin is entertaining but exists primarily to provide some Latino flair and funnies. At times it does also feel like a love letter to Twitter thanks to its extensive use throughout, but again this is something that is used just enough to get the message across – literally.

Chef may not mark a return to a Swingers-esque peak, but it does at least have a strong message at its core and some rather delicious looking food to feast your eyes upon. Put it this way, you may never look at a toasted cheese sandwich the same way ever again, mostly because your own attempts will pale in comparison.

Score: 3.5/5

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