Chef

Welcome back, Favreau!


Chef

Starring: DJon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Sofia Vergara
Directed by: Jon Favreau

Consensus: 4 Stars
Impressive!


Rated

R

Starring

Jon Favreau
Sofia Vergara
John Leguizamo
Bobby Cannavale
Scarlett Johnson
Dustin Hoffman
Oliver Platt
Robert Downey Jr.

Written by

Jon Favreau

Directed by

Jon Favreau


What to Expect?

One of the most important aspects of actor-comedian Jon Favreau today is that he can definitely handle carrying a whole film on his shoulders through his focused, smooth direction and writing. When this writer first witnessed his performance chops in Doug Liman’s Swingers (which Favreau also wrote) with Vince Vaughn, he was definitely surprised by the dynamic intensity in his performance. Of course, as the years passed, Favreau chose slightly lighter and – unfortunately – irrelevant characters in mixed movies like Couples Retreat and The Break-Up. But as a director, what the world really knows him for is the first two mega blockbuster movies in the Iron Man franchise. He’s still around the universe, having executive produced the Joss Whedon-helmed The Avengers and later, Iron Man 3, directed by Shane Black. And while he’s still hopping around the blockbuster universe, its nice to see that he’s still making small, enjoyable films on the side. And to prove that, he’s back with a bang after the co-writing slip-up that was Couples Retreat. And the movie he dishes us out is Chef.

Now after some deserving little gems in the form of Swingers and Made, here’s why one would really want to watch Chef:

  • Taking cue from Swingers, Chef seems to bring back heart, from what’s shown in its nice little trailer;
  • The movie boasts of cameos and supporting roles of the likes of solid actors like Robert Downey Jr., Oliver Platt, Scarlett Johansson and Sofia Vergara; and
  • This has major chances to make the audience reminisce the good ol’ days of some of Favreau’s more commendable writing in his career

Of course, one would wonder if the cameos and special appearances by the more mainstream performers might prove to be a deliberate move of distraction from the movie’s screenplay.

What’s it About?

But let’s not worry about whether or not we’d be distracted for a while. Because a distraction is what Chef Carl Casper (Favreau) really needs. And while he continues to deny it, Molly (Scarlett Johansson; Her), friend and hostess of the high profile restaurant they work in, continues to make him see what he’s trying to brush away. Reality strikes when prominent food critic Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt; 2012) blasts his food on his blog, resulting in Casper publicly yelling his heart out to Michel and quitting. Thus begins a journey of self-realisation that – as Casper realises – he should have started off on long ago.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Where the hell did RDJ go? He was just here like a minute ago!

Where the hell did RDJ go? He was just here like a minute ago!

The story is quite simple, and Favreau makes no fuss of it. He tells it like it is, linear and gimmick free. Sure, there’s the inclusion of social media that some might allude to gimmickry, but on a personal level, the levels of social media are so well-explained and integrated that none of these threads look forced. Social networking websites and applications have not just become a part of personal lives, but an almost integral one in businesses too. This film decidedly gives in just a peek to the kind of exploitation one can go for when one starts up. The inclusion of this angle also throws a light upon how fast kids catch up to the technology around them as compared to adults who are blissfully unaware of it at most times. Favreau’s writing of the film’s characters is a masterstroke. It’s just beautiful how people are themselves. Particularly surprising are Sofia “Gloria Delgado-Pritchett” Vergara’s (Modern Family, of course!) Inez. Her character’s written such that she’d look absolutely convincing if she were to exist in real life. As the ex-wife, Inez works so well, primarily because any potential cliche-ridden drama is completely ditched, replaced instead with real life camaraderie. The character arc of Favreau’s self-acted protagonist Casper also doesn’t do the ‘underdog’, and instead makes him a successful – albeit dissatisfied-with-life – celebrity chef. As equally as he’s impulsive and dissatisfied, he keeps consoling himself of how important the job is to him. When his life takes a new leaf thus, nothing looks like it’s the contemporary struggle it should be in movies. The struggle, instead, is inside him – a regular reminder that his life is basically robbed of heart, like the cooking in the swanky restaurant he works for initially. It’s also nice to see how Johansson’s Molly doesn’t diverge into any sort of weird relationship angle, only to break later, as this writer would normally expect. The audience is almost tricked into thinking it will go there for a second or two, before Favreau effectively pushes the moment into something else completely.

Which brings me to the absolutely focused direction. It’s only quite rare to find a director who completely understands and imbibes the vision of a film. A brilliant example of these auteurs sharply focused on the dynamic elements of their films would probably be Short Term 12 directed and written by Destin Daniel Cretton. And through most of the film, it appears that Favreau too knows his movie very, very well. He takes you through the journey of the movie’s initially confused-frustrated protagonist without bowing down to audience manipulation through most of it all. It’s nice to see that he doesn’t ‘play the hits’ and instead takes the higher road to the film’s culmination.

For a film like Chef it would have to be absolutely important to make the cooking highly believable and the food tantalizingly attractive. Cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau luckily understands the exact sentiment of the same, and – in collaboration with the writer-actor-director’s vision – makes the whole process of cooking attractive; right from inception to culmination. People about to watch this film should be warned: every well-lit frame consisting of the preparation of and the prepared dishes will translate into the audience getting very hungry if they haven’t eaten well already. Robert Leighton’s (Now You See Me) edit knows rhythm through the beauty of ellipses of time in the film. The visual compositing of tweets as they’re written are fun to watch; they almost look like futuristic thought bubbles. This, in some odd cases, is fairly true. We use twitter to give our followers peeks into our thoughts every now and then. Production design is realistic. Swanky houses are swanky, and messy places are messy. This, however, doesn’t either allow the team to take undue advantage of either the mess or the gloss of the respective places the scenes are set in. Everything, thus, has a balance. The soundtrack consists of a versatile mix of quite a few delicious tracks that gel well with the movie and its various scenes.

There are, however, a few issues with this film that this writer will cover on an absolutely objective level. While there’s absolutely no problem promoting Scarlett Johansson’s short role, it would have been better off not to hinge the trailer on Robert Downey Jr. While it’s fairly understandable that this act would probably bring some recognition, people who’d go and watch the film solely and superficially for the presence of Downey Jr. may be disappointed. For those who do discover the film though, it may be a different story altogether. Another issue with the trailer was the revelation of Oliver Platt’s face as the critic when for quite some time in the film, there seems to be created a certain tension and mystery as to who this guy is (the face on the header image in the website being pixelated to cover the identity of the critic). As far as length goes, the film is quite succinct and straightforward. It, however, may be an issue for some people trying to get to the flow of the film in the first fifteen minutes of its 1 hour 45-odd minute runtime. And finally, the film begins just as abruptly as it ends. Not that the ending doesn’t provide closure; on the contrary, it does. But the movie ends just as immediately as it begins. Now while some will be taken slightly aback at the way things don’t ease either in or out, this maybe a subtle way of addressing viewers that such is life; abrupt, layered, and yet straightforward if one’s eyes are opened enough to see through things.

To Perform or Not to Perform

Sofia Vergara pitches in a sincere one here, quite the refreshing change!

Sofia Vergara pitches in a sincere one here, quite the refreshing change!

Performances are smart and sincere. Jon Favreau is great, as always, as Casper. The ease with which he flows out the dynamic fusion of humor, extreme passive aggression (later turned hilariously active) and moments of vulnerability is just amazing. Sofia Vergara is quite different from her usual temperamental, passionate image in the sitcom Modern Family. She displays a certain restraint to her character in each of her scenes. This in itself gives the viewers so much to look at in terms of characters and how actors take them up. The chemistry between Favreau and Vergara is as rhythmic as the film itself. John Leguizamo plays Martin, and boy is he good with the character’s performance. Everytime he’s on screen, you chuckle, laugh out loud, or are just plain endeared by how nice as a character he is. Dustin Hoffman plays the blunt restaurant owner effectively. In fact, so convincing is his character portrayal that one’s confused if they’re to side with his practical side or be angry with him for being extremely blind. It was fun seeing Oliver Platt as the cocky food critic. And despite being a short role, his is equally important. Scarlett Johansson seems quite herself, really. She seems relaxed throughout her role. On the flip side though, it would definitely dishearten some people (like this writer) who actually do consider her to be a tad too commendable for a role like this. Emjay Anthony as Casper’s son Percy does quite well. He looks like a ten-year old looks like – a fast-learner with flashes of maturity and pining, with occasionally uncontrolled blow-offs of moods. Robert Downey Jr. and Russell Peters are hilarious in their short roles.

Worth It?

Overall, superficial hiccups aside, this one’s an absolute gem of a movie. Well-shot, sharply written and edited and passionately directed, this movie expertly takes on the challenge of directing a simple plot by adding a lot more dynamic layers, sensibility and heart into its proceedings. If the movie’s still running in cinemas, I implore you all to watch this film. Besides being absolutely hungry once you’ll come out of it, you’ll have devoured on an absolutely delicious, immensely satisfying three-course meal of a film that’s as wonderfully humorous as is emotionally relevant (you might just tear up!).

And Jon Favreau of Swingers and Made, welcome back!

PS: Did anyone miss Vince Vaughn in the proceedings by any chance?

Consensus: 4 Stars
Impressive!
About the Author

Ankit Ojha

Facebook

Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

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What to Expect?

One of the most important aspects of actor-comedian Jon Favreau today is that he can definitely handle carrying a whole film on his shoulders through his focused, smooth direction and writing. When this writer first witnessed his performance chops in Doug Liman’s Swingers (which Favreau also wrote) with Vince Vaughn, he was definitely surprised by the dynamic intensity in his performance. Of course, as the years passed, Favreau chose slightly lighter and – unfortunately – irrelevant characters in mixed movies like Couples Retreat and The Break-Up. But as a director, what the world really knows him for is the first two mega blockbuster movies in the Iron Man franchise. He’s still around the universe, having executive produced the Joss Whedon-helmed The Avengers and later, Iron Man 3, directed by Shane Black. And while he’s still hopping around the blockbuster universe, its nice to see that he’s still making small, enjoyable films on the side. And to prove that, he’s back with a bang after the co-writing slip-up that was Couples Retreat. And the movie he dishes us out is Chef. Now after some deserving little gems in the form of Swingers and Made, here’s why one would really want to watch Chef:

  • Taking cue from Swingers, Chef seems to bring back heart, from what’s shown in its nice little trailer;
  • The movie boasts of cameos and supporting roles of the likes of solid actors like Robert Downey Jr., Oliver Platt, Scarlett Johansson and Sofia Vergara; and
  • This has major chances to make the audience reminisce the good ol’ days of some of Favreau’s more commendable writing in his career

Of course, one would wonder if the cameos and special appearances by the more mainstream performers might prove to be a deliberate move of distraction from the movie’s screenplay.

What’s it About?

But let’s not worry about whether or not we’d be distracted for a while. Because a distraction is what Chef Carl Casper (Favreau) really needs. And while he continues to deny it, Molly (Scarlett Johansson; Her), friend and hostess of the high profile restaurant they work in, continues to make him see what he’s trying to brush away. Reality strikes when prominent food critic Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt; 2012) blasts his food on his blog, resulting in Casper publicly yelling his heart out to Michel and quitting. Thus begins a journey of self-realisation that – as Casper realises – he should have started off on long ago.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The story is quite simple, and Favreau makes no fuss of it. He tells it like it is, linear and gimmick free. Sure, there’s the inclusion of social media that some might allude to gimmickry, but on a personal level, the levels of social media are so well-explained and integrated that none of these threads look forced. Social networking websites and applications have not just become a part of personal lives, but an almost integral one in businesses too. This film decidedly gives in just a peek to the kind of exploitation one can go for when one starts up. The inclusion of this angle also throws a light upon how fast kids catch up to the technology around them as compared to adults who are blissfully unaware of it at most times. Favreau’s writing of the film’s characters is a masterstroke. It’s just beautiful how people are themselves. Particularly surprising are Sofia “Gloria Delgado-Pritchett” Vergara’s (Modern Family, of course!) Inez. Her character’s written such that she’d look absolutely convincing if she were to exist in real life. As the ex-wife, Inez works so well, primarily because any potential cliche-ridden drama is completely ditched, replaced instead with real life camaraderie. The character arc of Favreau’s self-acted protagonist Casper also doesn’t do the ‘underdog’, and instead makes him a successful – albeit dissatisfied-with-life – celebrity chef. As equally as he’s impulsive and dissatisfied, he keeps consoling himself of how important the job is to him. When his life takes a new leaf thus, nothing looks like it’s the contemporary struggle it should be in movies. The struggle, instead, is inside him – a regular reminder that his life is basically robbed of heart, like the cooking in the swanky restaurant he works for initially. It’s also nice to see how Johansson’s Molly doesn’t diverge into any sort of weird relationship angle, only to break later, as this writer would normally expect. The audience is almost tricked into thinking it will go there for a second or two, before Favreau effectively pushes the moment into something else completely.

Which brings me to the absolutely focused direction. It’s only quite rare to find a director who completely understands and imbibes the vision of a film. A brilliant example of these auteurs sharply focused on the dynamic elements of their films would probably be Short Term 12 directed and written by Destin Daniel Cretton. And through most of the film, it appears that Favreau too knows his movie very, very well. He takes you through the journey of the movie’s initially confused-frustrated protagonist without bowing down to audience manipulation through most of it all. It’s nice to see that he doesn’t ‘play the hits’ and instead takes the higher road to the film’s culmination.

For a film like Chef it would have to be absolutely important to make the cooking highly believable and the food tantalizingly attractive. Cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau luckily understands the exact sentiment of the same, and – in collaboration with the writer-actor-director’s vision – makes the whole process of cooking attractive; right from inception to culmination. People about to watch this film should be warned: every well-lit frame consisting of the preparation of and the prepared dishes will translate into the audience getting very hungry if they haven’t eaten well already. Robert Leighton’s (Now You See Me) edit knows rhythm through the beauty of ellipses of time in the film. The visual compositing of tweets as they’re written are fun to watch; they almost look like futuristic thought bubbles. This, in some odd cases, is fairly true. We use twitter to give our followers peeks into our thoughts every now and then. Production design is realistic. Swanky houses are swanky, and messy places are messy. This, however, doesn’t either allow the team to take undue advantage of either the mess or the gloss of the respective places the scenes are set in. Everything, thus, has a balance. The soundtrack consists of a versatile mix of quite a few delicious tracks that gel well with the movie and its various scenes.

There are, however, a few issues with this film that this writer will cover on an absolutely objective level. While there’s absolutely no problem promoting Scarlett Johansson’s short role, it would have been better off not to hinge the trailer on Robert Downey Jr. While it’s fairly understandable that this act would probably bring some recognition, people who’d go and watch the film solely and superficially for the presence of Downey Jr. may be disappointed. For those who do discover the film though, it may be a different story altogether. Another issue with the trailer was the revelation of Oliver Platt’s face as the critic when for quite some time in the film, there seems to be created a certain tension and mystery as to who this guy is (the face on the header image in the website being pixelated to cover the identity of the critic). As far as length goes, the film is quite succinct and straightforward. It, however, may be an issue for some people trying to get to the flow of the film in the first fifteen minutes of its 1 hour 45-odd minute runtime. And finally, the film begins just as abruptly as it ends. Not that the ending doesn’t provide closure; on the contrary, it does. But the movie ends just as immediately as it begins. Now while some will be taken slightly aback at the way things don’t ease either in or out, this maybe a subtle way of addressing viewers that such is life; abrupt, layered, and yet straightforward if one’s eyes are opened enough to see through things.

To Perform or Not to Perform

Performances are smart and sincere. Jon Favreau is great, as always, as Casper. The ease with which he flows out the dynamic fusion of humor, extreme passive aggression (later turned hilariously active) and moments of vulnerability is just amazing. Sofia Vergara is quite different from her usual temperamental, passionate image in the sitcom Modern Family. She displays a certain restraint to her character in each of her scenes. This in itself gives the viewers so much to look at in terms of characters and how actors take them up. The chemistry between Favreau and Vergara is as rhythmic as the film itself. John Leguizamo plays Martin, and boy is he good with the character’s performance. Everytime he’s on screen, you chuckle, laugh out loud, or are just plain endeared by how nice as a character he is. Dustin Hoffman plays the blunt restaurant owner effectively. In fact, so convincing is his character portrayal that one’s confused if they’re to side with his practical side or be angry with him for being extremely blind. It was fun seeing Oliver Platt as the cocky food critic. And despite being a short role, his is equally important. Scarlett Johansson seems quite herself, really. She seems relaxed throughout her role. On the flip side though, it would definitely dishearten some people (like this writer) who actually do consider her to be a tad too commendable for a role like this. Emjay Anthony as Casper’s son Percy does quite well. He looks like a ten-year old looks like – a fast-learner with flashes of maturity and pining, with occasionally uncontrolled blow-offs of moods. Robert Downey Jr. and Russell Peters are hilarious in their short roles.

Worth It?

Overall, superficial hiccups aside, this one’s an absolute gem of a movie. Well-shot, sharply written and edited and passionately directed, this movie expertly takes on the challenge of directing a simple plot by adding a lot more dynamic layers, sensibility and heart into its proceedings. If the movie’s still running in cinemas, I implore you all to watch this film. Besides being absolutely hungry once you’ll come out of it, you’ll have devoured on an absolutely delicious, immensely satisfying three-course meal of a film that’s as wonderfully humorous as is emotionally relevant (you might just tear up!). And Jon Favreau of Swingers and Made, welcome back!

PS: Did anyone miss Vince Vaughn in the proceedings by any chance?

About the Author

Ankit Ojha

Facebook

Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

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