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Jon Favreau Prepares a Film Feast in ‘Chef’

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Returning to his independent film roots, Jon Favreau crafts Chef, a charming story about a man who faces a career crisis. When he’s not directing comic book-based blockbusters filled with CGI (see Iron Man 2), Favreau favors intimate stories between families and friends. He returns to this territory in Chef, which he wrote and directed. The film explores the career makeover that occurs when Carl Casper, a LA-based culinary genius finds that he is trapped by his position in a tiny Brentwood eatery.Photo: collider.com

               

Throughout his career, Favreau has alternated between acting and handling additional filmmaking duties. In addition to Chef, Favreau has also written Swingers, The First 20 Million is Always the Hardest, and Couples Retreat. Although filmed on an independent budget scale, Favreau tapped some of his Iron Man friends to portray the supporting characters. Scarlett Johansson plays Molly, the young hostess at the restaurant. Robert Downey Jr. is hilarious as the eccentric and wealthy Marvin, the first ex-husband of his wife, Inez (played by the lovely Sofia Vergara), who still cares about Carl’s struggles. Carl maintains a cordial relationship with Inez and the two share custody of their ten-year old son, Percy (Emjay Anthony), who is so eager for time with his father that he tags along on visits to markets and keeps trying to get him to hang out in the restaurant. However, Carl is too distracted by his career troubles to realize he’s jeopardizing his relationship with his son.

               

Inez has been suggesting to Carl that he consider a food truck – and he finally acquiesces. Check out the movie poster – this isn’t a big spoiler. In Chef, the audience gets a taste (pun intended) of two sides of culinary life – the methodical preparation by a team at a restaurant, and the improvisation when the same talent is cooking with regional ingredients.

 

Dustin Hoffman plays Riva, the owner of the restaurant, who ultimately controls the menu. John Leguizamo and Bobby Cannavale play Carl’s line and sous chefs, respectively. Their scenes recall the playful banter of Shakespearean clowns. They work with him as he prepares for a visit from an influential critic, Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt). When things don’t go as planned, the guys deal with the fallout from his review.

               

A thoroughly enjoyable part of the story involved Twitter – Carl is clueless, and his son is a wiz, using social media to effortlessly promote their hard work. One of the best visual gags is the use of the little trademark Twitter birds, flying away off screen as Carl sends a message out (perhaps it is an homage to the fairy godmother and the birds who transformed Cinderella).

               

Chef is a visual delight for foodies – Favreau trained for the part and his knife skills look amazing. One of the best scenes in the movie? Carl making a sandwich for his son. This film is a great palate cleanser compared to the bloated monster movies currently playing at the box office. There is some swearing and crude language, which is the reason for its R rating, but overall Chef is a great story to share with mature family members.

 

Contact Diane Cooney at dcooney@philly2philly.com

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