Chef is a movie I ended up liking a whole lot more than I expected to. It’s not that I had low expectations starting out, but I wasn’t exactly counting down the minutes to when it hit the big screen either. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have seen it if it hadn’t been recommended by a friend. There are spoilers within, so go forth at your own risk.
There’s a bunch of things that make Chef an absolutely awesome movie, and I’ll break down a few of those ideas here.
Social media is used very smartly in Chef. The platform of choice here is Twitter, which worked well for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the use of Twitter beautifully, and humourously illustrated the generational gap between Carl Casper and his digital-savvy son, Percy. It could have been done with any platform, perhaps, but the social dynamics and functionality of Twitter is unique, and not exactly the simplest thing when you’ve never used it before.
Secondly, using Twitter to develop the story was really smart writing. It’s commendable, because it could have been included for the mere fact that it’s something new and relevant. No. They actually used it well. For example, Carl gets into a fight with a famous food critic on Twitter, which leads to his breaking point and subsequent decision to start his own venture. Had the platform not been so public and viral, it may not have pushed our protagonist far enough to actually hit that breaking point in a way that was necessary for his character to develop.
Finally, think about social media in terms of the advancement of technology and its effect on marketing. Percy is a tech wizz (as are most young kids nowadays, putting their parents to shame). This has a tremendous impact on Carl’s direct success with his food van, but also acts as a catalyst for bringing them closer together.
The shots of the epic foodstuffs made us hungry even after we had eaten supper.
Firstly, it’s most epic to note that in preparation for his role in Chef, Jon Favreau apprenticed under master chef Roy Choi, famed for his Kogi food truck fleet in Los Angeles. So all that fancy hand motions and preparation shots he did, well there was some real training behind that, which is great to know as it adds that flavour of authenticity, and is also just something cool to tell your friends. So go and tell them. Choi also prepared all the final dishes that were used for those shots in the film.
Secondly, I like that they keep it real with the food stuffs in Chef. Everyone just wants Carl to go back to basics and prepare some good food that everyone will enjoy. By doing this, Carl actually ends up finding himself, reconnecting with his family, and becoming rather successful along the way. What more could we ask for?
Speaking of food porn… Scarlett adds a bit of sexy flavour to the already awesome food stuffs. She’s a goddess! Also, the relationship between her and the main character is very innocent, despite what you may have thought… shame on you.
Robert Downey Jr. absolutely nails the douchebag ex role in this film, and Sofía Vergara is just… I’m not sure if I find her hot or endearing in this role; but I like it. I was also exceptionally pleased to see Russell Peters make an appearance as a rather interesting police officer (see the image below).
Chef has off-beat, situational humour which is a trait of good storytelling. It doesn’t have many very memorable one-liners, but I’m okay with that because the situational stuff is way more stimulating and memorable.
The best comedic moment had to be Carl’s flip-out when he confronts Ramsey Michel in a crowded restaurant. His anguish is not funny, but the way it’s delivered is absolutely hilarious.
There’s also tiny moments of humour that, when pieced together, make a satisfying kaleidoscope of good, clean fun – even the slightly offside stuff wasn’t too bad.
Now, before you think I’m brown-nosing, let me just say that I genuinely enjoyed these elements of Chef, and below are a few of the things I didn’t quite like about the film; just so that you feel satisfied with a more holistic review all in all.
Some things I didn’t like
A major critique of Chef is that while it has all these amazing elements, it’s not a movie I’m going to remember for years and years to come. It had all the potential to be a classic family flick, but it landed just short of a home run, unfortunately.
It’s tough to explain what I mean when I say that, but it’s just one of those things that has a lot to do with the general population’s awareness of the film.
This being an Indie film means that awareness was limited, which is really the Catch 22 of it all. Because a movie being well-distributed doesn’t make it a classic either, although I would argue that it’s an element; possibly, only possibly because there’s also the chance that a movie could be classified as classic long after its premiere,as it filters through the masses via DVD and other sources.
I guess a movie being a classic in any sense of the word is a very complicated thing. If you’re keen to explore some more questions around the subject, check out this piece from one of our regulars on the blog: Classic Movies – a Dying Breed?
Then there’s the other issue that is also ever-present, and that’s the fact that there just weren’t enough lows in the film. The whole thing is one big high; even the breaking point is not extremely hard-hitting.
Being the realist that I am (no I’m not a pessimist!) I feel like if they had invested more in constructing a tear-jerking low, they may have had a more memorable end product. It’s something we’ll never know now, and this being an indie film, I don’t think there’s a second chance (a.k.a. sequel) on the way.
Memorable Moment: Carl Casper’s flip-out as he confronts the aptly-named character, Ramsey Michel in a restaurant full of onlookers.
Awesome Quote: “I may not do everything great in my life, but I’m good at this. I manage to touch people’s lives with what I do and I want to share this with you.”
Watch it/ Don’t watch it?: Definitely watch it.
Who to watch it with: Awesome date night movie, and great family movie too.
About the Author: Stephen is a filmmaker and critic who loves it when big actors do Indie movies like Chef! It’s really cool. He also loves food, and he’s on Twitter. Follow him here >>> @thesnagel