There’s something to say about the relationship between a father and his son. Too often this bond is crippled by career or in some cases a broken family due to separation, but it is a bond that I believe can be repaired should the father be willing to commit to his offspring. Chef is as much about good food as it is about repairing that sacred bond through love and understanding, and its the best movie that Jon Favreau has made in years.
Chef is a film about Chef Carl Casper (Favreau), a once famous culinary prodigy who finds himself in the employment of a creatively stifling restaurant owner (Dustin Hoffman), and after a failing to impress a famous food critic, he inadvertently starts a flame war on Twitter with him. The war escalaltes with a rematch that sees Chef Casper losing his job. Divorced, unemployed, and practically bankrupt, Casper takes advantage of his new found freedom and decides to start a food truck, using the opportunity to bond with his estranged son while touring the US.
It’s not just a film for foodies (god I hate that word) but for anyone who enjoys a good family film.
The Bottom Line
On the surface, Chef is a sentimental joyride through Americana and the joys of parenthood, but to restrict your views to the simple but affecting storytelling doesn’t do this movie justice. I’ve spent a few weeks writing this review unsure of which angle to take and if you watch our video review, I make a comparison of the film when lined up against Job Favreau’s journey through the Hollywood hamburger factory – an autobiographical subtext is impossible to deny and I admire his approach whether the story is a coincidence or consciously self-reflective.
What does Chef mean to me? On the one hand, I empathise with Favreau’s character – the eternal artist destined for greater things but never quite measuring up to the lofty expectations that his audience has bestowed upon him. He grasps at success but his creativity is smothered, and eventually severs himself from that ideal to embrace an existence that is raw and humbling. For many artists, this is the passage that we embark on, and if you had asked me two weeks ago what Chef meant to me, I would gravitate towards this mimesis of my own journey.
But as the days rolled on, I began to take the position of Casper’s son played by newcomer Emjay Anthony. Casper’s son at first glance simply wishes to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a chef, but truly all this child wants is to spend quality time with his father and not just trips to the movies or amusement parks. It wouldn’t be surprising to find that most children have asked this from their parents, and some of my most poignant memories have been in this pursuit, and to a degree Casper appears as a reflection of my own father – a cantankerous but passionate man, or at least passionate enough for his professional endeavours. My story turned out very differently, but for Percy, this film caries the covenant of the proverbial happy ending.
Chef tells an often told story, but the difference is in how the story is told – it has an emotional gravity that swells within the characters and that is why it feels as genuine as it does. This film is the product of passion after the financial umbilical cord has been cut and it’s fairly evident throughout. Chef is hardly perfect, with a first act that labours on for far too long, and the predictable schmaltziness that forms the trope of this genre. It also has the balls to say that Robert Downey Jr. is in this film when his 3 minute presence constitutes a professional favour rather than the sort of screen time that the marketing would lead you to believe. And let’s not even mention the bombardment of Twitter-fuelled product placement.
In conclusion, this movie is a road trip of sentimentality, surrounded by delicious visuals that will undoubtedly have you heading to a post-viewing dinner date. The story isn’t revolutionary, but tying it in with Favreau’s brand of humour and some solid performances (John Leguizamo being the exception, because he sucks in everything), Chef is a film that warrants your attention…and if you don’t buy any of that introspective rubbish that you read earlier, do it for the food – it’s reward enough.
In The Kan is proud to partner with the Labia Theatre in Cape Town for an incredible giveaway! We are giving away 3 sets of double tickets for the opening night of Chef at the Labia – all you have to do to win is comment on this review with the answer to this easy question:
Which anniversary did Cape Town’s Labia Theatre recently celebrate?
If you need a clue, head on over to the Labia’s Thundafund page, and while you’re there, we encourage you to help save this icon of independent cinema in their efforts to upgrade to digital by donating towards their upgrade which has already reached the phenomenal sum of R276,o00!
Terms and conditions
- This contest is open to all residents of South Africa who will be able to attend a showing of Chef at the Labia Theatre.
- The contest closes on Friday 8 August 2014 and winners will be announced the same day.
- Three winners will be picked at random and announced over our Facebook and Twitter pages.
- The judges decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
- The organisers retain the right to change any aspect of this contest at their discretion.