Chef – 2014

Chef_2014

I saw a preview for this movie in passing and thought hmm…interesting. So when it became available on Netflix, I jumped on it. Previous experience has taught me to pay little to no attention to movie ratings, especially on Netflix. I’ll admit the 5-star rating felt reassuring I was in for a treat. I already knew it had something to do with food, which for me is already a plus.

The sight of Jon Favreau takes me back to his feature in The Sopranos, his ‘wanna be gangsta’ scenes with Christopher. Can’t say I’ve seen much of his work so if you ask if like him or his acting? I’ll say I’m indifferent about his presence in a film. He’s yet to win me over as a fan, could this be the movie that does it? We’ll see. So he wrote, directed and featured in Chef, co-starring with the likes of Scarlett Johansson, John Leguizamo, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Robert Downey Jr. There’s no shortage of heavy hitters in this cast.

It’s a story about soul searching, finding your path, defining success and not allowing success define you. Reaching for and living out your dreams, using what feels right as a guide. This is actually one of my favorite types of stories. One where someone loses everything to find something greater. Life can get complicated when you push for the next level in any chosen career. And depending on the stakes, you may land on your feet, or find yourself rebuilding from scratch.

In this story, Carl (played by Jon Favreau) is a chef who like most people in today’s work place has lost his fire. The job has become routine; he’s treading water and doing just enough to fill tables in the restaurant with bodies. When word reaches him that a well-known food critic is soon to write a review about the restaurant, he decides to raise the bar and change the menu. His kitchen staff is excited about the challenge but the restaurant’s owner Riva (played by Dustin Hoffman), sees things differently. He’s a businessman that’s all about the cash register. In his opinion, if customers are happily paying for what’s on the menu, why rock the boat, why change anything? Soon their opinions collide, each taking firm stand. The result? Carl finds himself out of a job, with a bad review from the food critic hanging over his head.

Oblivious to how social media really works, he fires back at the food critic Ramsey (played by Oliver Platt) on twitter, digging a hole that quickly makes him an outcast in the industry. Circumstances become dire, he’s now a grown ass unemployed divorced father, facing ridicule and humiliation. Things get more interesting as he loses his credibility and status. In attempt to reconnect with his talent, he decides to return to the basics. He commits to rebuilding from the ground up, but this time, on his terms and following his passion.

I think the pacing of this movie moves very well along its storyline. They quickly introduce the characters, present a conflict, then take you on a problem-solving, people-bonding and self-discovering journey. It’s coherent and nothing seems out of place. The characters feel like people that live on your street. The acting’s great, the food will make your mouth water, and the soundtrack is outstanding, a real pleasure to listen to. I felt ‘happily inspired’ at the end. It’s an adventure, it’s a comedy, it’s an accurate narrative of the social media space we now live in. There are several thought provoking moments weaved in. Moments that make you think about family and the quality of relationships you build. You think of the examples you are setting for those looking up to you, and of course, you think of foods you should try when passing through New Orleans!

Remember the game ‘I made you look’? Scarlett Johansson makes me look every time. Occasionally I question her choice of roles but mennnnn, It’s hard to hate on that woman. She has the X-factor that keeps me glued to the TV, smiling for no damn reason. There’s a scene where she’s smoking a joint with Favreau, for a moment I wish I was there in his place. The entire cast of Chef is awesome. Robert Downey Jr. is as usual playing himself. Personally, I find his delivery and adaptation to characters monotone. Like I know what to expect regardless of the type of character he’s playing. Sorry to say, but he’s another Nicolas Cage to me ☺

Conclusion:

Is this 114mins of my life I wish I could take back? No.
Will I see it again? Yes, its a great ‘feel good’ movie.
Is it worth owning? Yes. I got the Blu-Ray from Amazon.
What about the soundtrack? Wicked! Already own it.
Should there be sequel? There’s closure at the end, no need for a sequel here.
Who will like this movie? Anyone fighting the good fight, chasing a dream and also loves food.
Is it a Classic? No. However, its memorable, the cinematography’s great and there aren’t many movies like it.