Chef – 3.5/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

chefChef – 3.5/5 – A feel good film; they are some of the most redundant and played out kinds of things to watch on the big screen.  No matter what genre, using the ‘feel good’ theme comes off passé.  Even so, there are times when that theme can be infused with a topic that will make it a wonderful kind of experience.  Chef is that kind of film.  A movie based with the aspects in the art of cooking, you are witness to more than just ‘everyday’ food.  Chef presents a tale that hit’s close to home.  With a fragmented start, Chef brings to you a different kind of ‘Feel Good’ Experience.

Premise:  A Chef of many passions, is clamped down out of necessity.  Through circumstances brought on by fate, he puts in an effort to reclaim his creative promise, while piecing back together his estranged family.

Starring in the lead role as the head chef Carl Casper is Jon Favreau.  Known for his comedic roles; he steps somewhat outside of his comfort zone to portray a character with more layers then his normal kind of ‘sarcastic’ portrayals.  As the head chef, he is a master of his craft.  The only thing he holds dear in this life is the fact that he is his creative at what he does.  Through circumstances of this creativity, he is forced out of his ‘normal’ cooking role, and must find redeem himself through his craft.  Watching the ‘redemption’ happen for Casper is both endearing and whimsical; which is brought together through timing and skill of Favreau’s acting.  He is witty in his line delivery, and you feel his passion for both the love of cooking and also creating new things.  You watch him break down at his personal core, and also see as he must find a middle ground between being a chef and being a father.  This becomes a homely experience for both him and the audience.   With the rest of the cast, you have as followed:

John Leguizamo as Martin (Friend/co-cook)

Bobby Cannavle as Tony (Friend)

Emjay Anthony as Percy (Son)

Scarlett Johansson as Molly (Friend)

Dustin Hoffman as Riva (Restaurant Owner)

Sofia Vergara as Inez (Ex-Wife)

Oliver Platt as Ramsey Michel (Food Critic)

Robert Downy Jr. as Marvin (friend)

There are a few other cameos, but pretty much the core supporting cast is listed above.  In their roles, each actor/actress provides a window of charisma that is both welcoming and flavorful for this kind of film.  With the central story focused on Casper’s fall and redemption, these particular individuals help provide both a humanistic aspect and humor hijinks for his path through the film.  Majority of the time, their interactions come across as realistic, but sometimes (mostly in the first half) the supporting characters get invoked by fragmented element to create something ‘too’ dramatic or sincere.   Overall, they do justice and provide enjoyment on screen.

Within the direction and overall script; it feels as if you’re watching drastically two different parts of the same story.  Inevitably, the parts have to coincide, but it takes a while for the film to actually find its groove.  There is the Pre-redemption/buildup angle of Casper (first half); and the redemption/retrospective angle of Casper (second half).  In the first part of the film, we find the chef as the head of a popular kitchen in California.  He goes about his ‘normal’ routine in making ‘acceptable’ entrees that brings in the customers and appeases the owner.  As you see this normalcy take root, you watch as Casper itches to break the mold and try new things.  He is an artist in his craft; and you get a look of it through some of the stuff he creates alone.  Through some ‘exposition’ style towards cooking, you get an intriguing look at both the character’s passion and the artistry he puts into it.  This part of the first half of the film are the most enjoyable; but there also gets drag down by other aspects introduced.  Along with this cooking angle, you also get the butting themes of ‘family’ and ‘melodrama’ elements involving the restaurant and Casper’s family.  With these threads pushing against each other, the film never has complete focus.  This causes all the whimsical and surefire comedic and dramatic situations to come off mundane.  Eventually, Chef Casper meets his match against a food critic, whom drives him into a corner of dire circumstances.  In this ‘fall from grace’, the film takes a ‘refocused’ approach to all that is happening.  We then get a middle of the road ‘retrospective’ kind of interlude, which brings us to the second half.  Down on his luck, he goes to Miami with his Son and Ex-Wife, trying to find reasons to breathe hope in his life again.   Here, the film takes a turn for the better.  You see the ‘redemption’ angle take hold.  Casper sees there might be some hope for him to return to his passion, which also helps bring him close to his family.  As this changes, the direction takes a more linear approach, helping pull all the comedic hijinks, dramatic situations and heartfelt moments into focus.  The film then begins to breathe some kind of authenticity, as the ‘feel good’ themes begin to ripple through this cook.  You see Casper begins to find out what is true to one’s soul, as well as how that affect the one’s you love.  You see the evolution of Casper, as you watch him grow to become a better person, through his cooking.  You still get some unique aspects of ‘how to’s’ through cameos, but the overall ‘feel good’ theme situates the film on an even keel.  Once the film gets to its climax, it is refreshing to see a completion to this journey for Casper.  The film then ends on a high note, watching him fulfill a dream that both him and his family could share.

The visuals of the film are grounded in everyday life.  With the look at restaurants, homes and the overall ‘aura’ of the life of a cook, you get a sense of realism within the movie.  Everything is vivid, and doesn’t seem out of place.  The score is mute at best, but it is worth noting that it has ‘moments’ of glory in the story.

Chef is a film that is a strong arching ‘feel good’ theme; but with some different twist and elements it is one that stands out from the crowd.  Favreau does a good job in the lead, as the rest of the cast provides elements of awe, intrigue and fun in their roles.  If you’re a fan of ‘feel-good’ stories, this is one for you.  You will not be disappointed, and you might pick up some techniques for cooking as well.

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