Carl Casper is an acclaimed chef with a family life that seems as decaying as his artistic freedom. Those frustrations boil over into a raucous viral-videoed public confrontation against a restaurant critic who panned his cooking of food that his boss ordered him to make against his instincts. Now with his career ruined, Carl's ex-wife offers an unorthodox solution in Miami: refit an old food truck to offer quality cooking on his own terms. Now with his young son, Percy, and old colleague, Martin, helping, Carl takes a working trip across America with that truck to rediscover his gastronomic passion. With Percy's tech savvy and Martin's enthusiasm, Carl finds that he is creating a traveling sensation on the way home. In doing so, Carl discovers he is serving up more than simply food, but also a deeper connection with his life and his family that is truly delicious in its own way. Written by Kenneth Chisholm
May 30, 2014
Jon Favreau wrote and co-produced one of my favorite independent films, Swingers (1996). A movie brimming with relatable, quotable, near and dear to your heart charm. The movie put him and Vince Vaughn on the map. His follow up, Made (2001), which he directed was just as good. It’s a hidden gem of a film if you haven’t seen it. It pairs him and Vince together again and is simply hysterical. One of my favorites to quote with people who have seen and love the film. It also is another great example of how Puff Daddy (Sean Combs) has real comedic talent. After Favreau directed the now holiday staple Elf, Hollywood took notice and eventually placed him in the big budget Hollywood director chair; with films like Iron Man 1, 2 and Cowboys & Aliens.
In the movie Chef (2014) Favreau plays Carl Casper (nice alliteration), a big time celebrity chef torn between conforming to the money behind his restaurant and a critic who feels he has lost his culinary magic. In a massive social media blow up Carl is forced to go back to his roots as a food truck chef, and our protagonist gets his shot at redemption.
I feel this movie is a very close to life story for Favreau. A big time Hollywood director, torn between the push of producers and critics, Favreau returns to the small time indie film realm. Much the way his character Carl returns to the small time cooking venture that is the food truck.
Only Favreau’s beat up food truck contains an arsenal of A-list Hollywood celebrities.
I can’t say if in Favreau’s shoes I wouldn’t have cast my love interests as Scarlett Johansson and Sofia Vergara as well. Yet I just don’t know how believable it is. And to risk sounding like the critic played by Oliver Platt in this film, that’s not the only thing about this film that lacks believability. The story line is very tired Hollywood, all the pieces fit together too nicely in the end. A far departure from the independent roots Favreau was attempting to return too. The film is not with merit, along with the cast and soundtrack is amazing.
Any film that includes an appearance by the incomparable blues guitar god Gary Clark Jr is great in my opinion.
Only much like the chocolate lava cake in the movie, at the center of the film we have Favreau. His acting is the underwhelming center of the film. Surrounded by great acting talent his lack luster performance is dulled by the shine of those around him. Perhaps if he had allowed this passion project to be acted by any other actor in this film. The emotional center of the father and son dynamic is just not there.
Despite all of this, I still eagerly await the next Jon Favreau project, be it in a big posh Hollywood restaurant or served off an independent food truck.
Eh. Meh. Okay. Sure. I’ll always enjoy a movie with Jon Favreau on the screen – either as the main character or complimentary best friend role (The Break-Up comes to mind). He’s lovable. You can’t help but want to be his friend even when in the middle of a rage or feeling sorry for himself. I just like the guy. And I like the opportunity to support him as an actor / writer / director by buying or renting his movies. I’m a fan through and through of Faverau.
But, ugh, I just can’t put this movie in the same pile as his other great movies (from independent flicks to Hollywood blockbusters). It just never went deep into the story or the characters. The story … Good. Predictable. Sweet. A little too perfect. The acting … Okay. Y’all wanted to hang out together in amazing food cities and enjoy great food — totally get it (think Couple’s Retreat but for foodies — a group of Hollywood folks that found a way to get a studio to pay for a once-in-a-lifetime trip). Would it be better if Vince Vaughn joined at some point? Maybe. Why not?
It seems as though this was a very personal movie for Favreau — but he never really “let us in”. The entire time I felt as though we were minutes if not seconds away from seeing his heart, passion and reason for making the film. It was so close. But it never got there. Is it about love? Kids? Cooking? Standing up for yourself? What? What do you want us to walk away with? I know there is an answer in there somewhere. I searched for the meaning. It just didn’t get there.
If Jon was my buddy (a girl can dream, right?) I would sit down with him over a delicious meal (cooked by my man Matt of course) and a glass of wine and I would challenge him to cut half of the movie out and give it more passion. I would ask him what he was afraid of doing with the movie and to tackle it head on … instead of relying of Sofia Vergara to smile us through it (she is gorgeous so I understand taking that route!)
It’s a great start to what could be a great film.
Jon – it’s just my opinion. I hope we can still be friends. 🙂