Chef (Movie Review)

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Going into this movie I expected a sweet, but cliche movie with a great cast, but a tired premise. Going out of the film, I was absolutely excited with the wonderful script, great acting, and the sweet and lovingly crafted emotional moments that made this movie such a great and noteworthy watch. Normally I am not a big fan of movies that are written, directed, and starred by the same guy, but this movie was quite a different story. Jon Favreau did not only write a fantastic screenplay that although mildly to sweet at times manages to throw wonderfully nuanced characters and moments into a fantastically paced ‘roadfilm’. Favreau also manages to give a strong (not perfect, but strong) acting performance as the talented yet slowly witted chef Whatever-His-Name. But most remarkable is Favreau’s directing chops that he manages to spotlight despite his uncanny list of other responsibilities in this flick.

Chef has a stellar cast led by Iron Man director Jon Favreau playing an intricately written chef who gets fired from his notorious job and has to start anew. And although Favreau is not the strongest actor that I have ever seen, he manages to get the character on his feet and into the viewer’s heart. But there are a few awkward moments pitched throughout the movie; most notably are some of the scenes Favreau has with his onscreen son. But other than that Favreau also manages to put notably strong character developement into the portrayal as well.

John Leguizamo plays Favreau’s souschef and has such a sweet and loving portrayal and subsequently ¬†compliments Favreau in such a wonderful way. Leguizamo in this role is probably the best part as the film as he just incorporates this energectic and upbeat persona so naturally. Emjay Anthony plays Favreau’s son, and although I normally am not a big fan of child actors I think Anthony is pretty good and serves his purpose in this film very well. The only problem with Anthony is his lacking chemistry with Favreau, but that is just as much Favreau’s fault as Anthony’s.

The film also stars a gang of other A-list actors in smaller bit parts. Most notably is Sofia Vergara as Favreau’s ex-wife. Going into this film and knowing that Vergara was it in I was afraid she wouldn’t be able to shed off her Modern Family skin and would just seem to be a Gloria-cameo rather than an actual actress’ portrayal of a brand new character. But this was absolutely not the case as Vergara managed to play this character well despite her very one-project (excluding Hot Pursuit) career. Also notable is Bobby Cannavale as one of Favreau’s former coworkers. Though there wasn’t a lot of meat to the actual character, Canavale had great on screen chemistry with Favreau and Leguizamo.

Scarlett Johansson also makes a brief appearance as the head waitress of the restaurant Favreau formerly worked at, and the performance kind of seemed more like a Johansson cameo rather than anything else and the whole character almost came off as useless to the film. Dustin Hoffman and Oliver Platt play Favreau’s former boss and a food critic respectively and serve as the film’s antagonists. The two characters were decently fleshed out and worked okay towards the greater goal of the movie, but both the performances really came off as wooden and lame. Especially Platt’s. Rober Downey Jr. also makes a brief, but definite appearance as Favreau’s ex-wife’s ex-husband and brings nicely needed, well-paced humor to the film.

Visually the film is nothing splendid, the cinematography is very ‘roadtrip’ and mildly cliche and the social media crossover is never truly satisfying. But story-wise this film is superb. The story is not anything drastically new and may even be taken straight from the exposition scene in Pixar’s Ratatoullie. But the pacing of the film is perfect and on point, while the outcome of the film is not exactly what the viewer would have guessed. What I really liked about this film though was its lack of conventional plot arcs. You know that plot arc that starts really low and then goes way up (to the climax) and then falls a litlle.

Yeah, this film had a much more organic and ‘real’ arc with highs and lows that come in a much more natural and less overly-dramatic sense. But that still entitled the film to have its fair shares of powerful highs and slumbering lows that created such a wonderful watching of the film. The screenplay though was a little cliche and there were cases in which the dialogue got a little too heavy or unnatural or long winded, but in the big picture that was not very significant.

So although this film had small little flaws here and there, the overall vibe of this film was nice, feel good, and did what it set out to do. Jon Favreau’s direction, acting, and writing was mostly on point and a mostly great cast helped make this film great. And although the film had scattered bores or awkward scenes this is definitely a film I would suggest everyone watches.

Best Aspect- John Leguizamo

Worst Aspect- Oliver Platt

Rating- 8.5/10 or B

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