Chef: Favreau’s Latest Has a Small Budget But a Big Heart.

Chef

(Photo Courtesy of Phoenix Bites)

Ironman director takes an Iron Chef turn with new feel-good indie.

Jon Favreau’s latest movie is a big departure from the summer blockbusters we’ve come to expect from him in the past few years. In fact, it’s far from it. With Chef, Favreau goes back to his indie roots, writing a screenplay that’s more on par with his cult classic Swingers.

But there’s one thing he carries over from the Marvel superhero movie universe – a STAR STUDDED CAST! Expect to see Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Jon Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Sophia Vergara, Oliver Platt, Amy Sedaris and Ironman himself, Robert Downey Jr. And the best part? They are all very well cast; helping Chef become what I thought was a great little film.

Besides the A-listers, here’s some other things I liked about Chef:

 

Food porn.

Make sure you don’t come hungry – part of the allure of this movie is the beautifully shot food that’s cooked up in the kitchen. From close ups of prep, to montages of creating a menu, to a scene where Favreau’s character cooks an insane amount of food while in a rage, there’s plenty of sexy food shots to see here. I recommend bringing tissues to this film, but not for wiping tears. You can use them to wipe the drool off your mouth after watching these sequences.

Fun (and relatable) integration of social media.

This movie does a great job at showing how the Internet (and specifically social media) can make or break relationships and/or a career. Favreau’s chef has a huge fall from grace after not understanding the basics of a Twitter reply. This leads to a viral video highlighting a meltdown, which all but assures him to be remembered not as a great chef, but as an embarrassing Internet meme. It’s interesting to see the use of technology in this movie – it’s worked into the story in a natural way, and ends up making the film feel even more relatable to the iPhone wielding audiences of today.

An adorable and talented child actor.

One of the main plot points of the movie is the main character’s relationship with his son. As a divorced man, Favreau’s character spends very little time with his son, instead focusing on his career. Without spoiling too much, I’ll say that watching Emjay Anthony play the part of a neglected son who looks up to his dad so much was very endearing. You’ll have to see the film to watch the evolution of their relationship, and some really great scenes from Anthony (who is 4’11” according to his IMDB page – adorable).

Travel Destinations.

A really cool sequence of the movie features a cross-country road trip with stops in a few great American cities. This might be more of a nostalgia thing for me, since I took a southern road trip a few years back and stopped in Austin & New Orleans, which are both featured pit stops in the film, but I really enjoyed watching the story unfold in these cities. We get a nice dose of New Orleans charm, complete with a trip to Café Du Monde for beignets, and we get a look at some amazing looking Austin BBQ meat. It’s enough to make you buy a plane ticket immediately after leaving the theatre to get your Southern fix.

Great Soundtrack.

In movies, as in life, the soundtrack can make a huge difference to how a certain scene plays out. In the case of Chef, the music adds a great deal of emotion and fun to the movie. As Favreau pointed out in a really great recent podcast interview, all the songs on the soundtrack are covers. This adds a fun twist on recognizable songs, and gives each song more ways to connect with the film (in NOLA, we hear a great brass band rendition of “Sexual Healing”). I found the music to be a wonderful addition to the film.

 

The final verdict?

This movie surprised me with its even mix of heart & humor, and left me feeling good. It’s definitely worth checking out. It opens in Buffalo this weekend at the Amherst Dipson theatre.

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