(directed by Jon Favreau, 2014)
***+ (out of 5)
> Aw! Thank you Jon Favreau for dreaming up this warm human comedy and bringing it to life. You done good, pal.
. This formerly B-tier actor has long since proven himself in the director’s chair. The man knows how to make dazzling blockbusters like the IRON MAN films, but here, he proves he can also dazzle with a much lighter touch, making a very big “small” movie. No real surprises here. I knew pretty much everything before it happened. But the considerable pleasure was in the execution. Jon plays an established chef with a still rising star. He works for a rather unpleasant Dustin Hoffman, and with a very pleasant Scarlett Johansson, and runs a well-oiled kitchen of people who respect and adore him. Things aren’t doing quite as well in his personal life. He’s a weekend dad to a great kid who lives with his beautiful Cuban-American ex, but his kitchen takes priority, and he seems too preoccupied to notice that his boy suffers from it.
. It’s a big moment in his career: the critic who discovered him a decade before was returning to review this current restaurant. The chef is an artist, eager to impress his visitor, but shortsighted Hoffman insists he play it safe and serve the comfort menu that has played well to the masses through the years- in effect: his “greatest hits”. Against his best judgment, the feted Chef capitulates, with predictable results. Critic Oliver Platt rips him a new one, in a gleefully nasty online review that starts a very public war-of-words that changes everything.
. When CHEF becomes a road trip to New Orleans in a food truck with father, son, and jocular sidekick John Leguizamo (a pleasure to watch, as always), it becomes quite the feel-good film. There are a good number of laugh-out-loud moments, making this a sweet delight. (For added laughs, check out the deleted scenes from Amy Sedaris. Hilarious!)
. Hey, thanks Mr. F. for showing us you can play a sympathetic and believable good guy, you can write sympathetic characters we can root for, and direct very sweet films it is impossible not to love.
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