Chef Review

Chef

At first taste, Jon Favreau’s new film Chef is a comical romp about a top culinary dog who loses his direction and dignity all at once, before forcing himself to start again from the bottom.

But it’s not.

Whilst there’s enough food-porn in it to make Jamie Oliver weep, what it’s really about is the clash between old-school technophobes and new-age technophiles.

And ultimately, its message is this: social media and sharing technology can help people to reconnect. So embrace it.

Whilst the technology that pervades our lives in this hyper-connected era has already been creeping onto the screen in recent years, Favreau unabashedly puts it centre-stage in Chef.

I’m not talking about James Bond (un)subtly flashing the Sony Ericsson logo on his super-spy-phone, or J-T and Mila Kunis bantering playfully over a cool new app.

No. Social media is the central mode of communication and interaction in this film.

It’s what causes lead character Chef Carl Casper – or rather, @ChefCarlCasper – to fall from his perch. But it’s also what helps him to reconnect with his estranged son and eventually to regain control of his career.

Personally, I do sometimes find it alarming just how rapidly sharing technology has evolved and how pervasive it is. So initially, I found the central location of Twitter in this film’s narrative a little unsettling.

By the end, though, I felt much more positive about the all-sharing, all-tweeting nature of contemporary society.

Because the moral of the story is essentially this: Stop being afraid of social media and get involved. It doesn’t distance people, stoopid, it connects them!

On that note, one can’t help but wonder where the funding for this so-called ‘pet project’ of Favreau’s came from…

Favreau, who plays Chef Carl Casper, is forgettable. It seems he has cast himself as the lead role in an act of self-indulgence rather than artistic best-practise.

And who wouldn’t? The perks include enlisting two of the loveliest ladies in Hollywood to play his character’s love interests, despite a distinct lack of believability.

Not to worry though – the supporting cast are fantastic.

Casper’s sous-chefs, played by John Leguizamo and Bobby Cannavale, bring energy and laughter to the film.

His son Percy, played by Emjay Anthony, is a beacon of good intentions and unconditional love for his less-than-perfect father. He is utterly adorable and eclipses Favreau effortlessly.

The narrative of the film is not without flaw.

At times, character relationships are thinly developed – such as those between Casper and his girlfriend, played by Scarlett Johansson.

Forgive the cynicism, but it really does seem that Johansson’s only function in this film is to have a steamy, food-porny romantic scene with Favreau before conveniently exiting the narrative to make room for the ex-wife.

Favreau: 1, Johansson: 0.

A sickly-sweet ending lands entirely out of the blue, splattering with a devastating thud and ruining an otherwise down-to-earth and original film.

And yet.

Sins aside, this is undeniably a fabulous feel-good film which will leave you buzzing with positivity.

And a massive craving for a medianoche.

Stephanie Josine

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June 2014
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