movies: chef

chef - starting from scratch never tasted so good
There are times when, in the choice of movies, I really need to get out of my own way. I wasn't really feeling in the mood for (writer, director and star) Jon Favreau's new movie, Chef, and it turned out to be a fantastic movie.

It's a simple premise... a chef who isn't happy cooking what he's being told to loses his job, has a social media related melt down and starts up a food truck, rebuilding his relationship with his son in the process.

And if the term "food porn" ever applied to a movie, this is definitely it. From the long, lingering shots of Favreau's character, Carl, making pasta for Scarlett Johansson as a stand in for a sex scene to the love and attention he pours into a toasted cheese sandwich for his son... through to the amazing restaurant dishes he invents and the delicious looking Cuban sandwiches that come out of the food truck.

I really have never wanted a movie to have taste and smell as I wanted during this one.

It's also the first movie I've seen where social media is handled realistically and brilliantly throughout. I'm guessing Favreau had some kind of product placement deal with Twitter, since the Twitter bird and interface is shown regularly and while other social media platforms are shown on screen, Twitter is the only one mentioned by name (along with Twitter-owned Vine).

At it's heart this is a little indie movie, but given Favreau's provenance as an actor and director he's managed to rope in a lot of famous faces... not only Scarlett Johansson but also Dustin Hoffman, John Leguizamo, Oliver Platt, Sofía Vergara and even his Iron Man pal, Robert Downey Jr shows up very briefly in a very Downey role.

Of all the cast Vergara was the biggest surprise to me... I've only seen her previously in bits and pieces of Modern Family where she plays really broad comedy, but here she's wonderfully understated as Carl's ex-wife and mother of his son.

Speaking of whom, I definitely forsee a great career for the 11 year old actor playing Carl's son Percy, Emjay Anthony... he's never the quintessential smart arse or sulky child in the movie, and I know a lot of that is about the story and the writing (more on that in a second) but Anthony is a fantastic young actor and manages to display all the emotions you know his character is feeling while either saying nothing at all or saying exactly the opposite.

Where this movie really, truly excels though is in Favreau's story. The plot never gets out of hand, even at the moments where it's the most heightened (although the Downey Jr scenes do skate the edge) and the relationships, particularly between Carl and Percy, are wonderfully written.

And I'll admit, I got a little glassy eyed towards the end.

But like any good meal, this movie far exceeds the sum of it's parts to become something amazing.

yani's rating: 5 cubanos out of 5

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