“Chef” is simply a joyous movie. It starts a story about a veteran Chef who has lost it’s way and becomes a celebration of life itself. When this movie was done I walked away feeling full of life and happiness. Rarely can a movie compell me to feel so deeply for the characters and get caught up in the events that have hit their lives in this point in time. The writer and director is Jon Favreau who is coming down from a string of big budget films to a smaller scale story and it turns out to be his best film by a long shot.
Favreau plays the main character named Carl Casper. Carl is the head chef at Gauloise in Brentwood, California. While talented and popular with his kitchen staff, Carl feels that his boss wuld rather stick to tired classic dishes rather than allowing him to innovate and create anything new. When Carl has an opportunity to challenge himself as a chef by impressing a local food critic played by Oliver Platt, he is foiled by his boss who again changes the menu back to the tired meals he has been making for years. When his tech-savvy son signs him up for Twitter, Carl ends up berating the critic not realizing that Twitter is viewable by the public. Carl challenges Ramsay the critic to come back so he can cook a whole new menu only to be foiled by his boss yet again.
When he starts reading live tweets of the critic’s return visit to the restaurant he shows up for an epic confrontation that ends up going viral on the internet. As Carl turns in to a media sensation his reputation in the business evaporates. But an opportunity opens up when his ex wife offers to finance a food truck for him. Carl sees this sort of beneath him but all of his support system sees it as freeing him to make anything he wants.
This leads Carl on a cross country tour witht he food truck as he rediscovers his passion for food and finally bonds with his son and closest friend. Their journey is filled with highs and lows as father and son learn and grow from each other. Carl does the cooking and his son builds the hype over social media turning their littler operation in to a success. By the time they reach LA they are already a hot spot wherever they park.
What drew me in so easily was the performances and the screenplay. The actors make this look easy but it is extremely difficult to portray characters this realistically. I felt like I knew these people. They have real life issues, problems and fears. They take chances that could reach success or come down crashing hard. Carl finds his whole life turned upside down but he makes it an opportunity to grow as a person and rediscover his passion.
When “Chef” ended I found myself grinning from ear to ear. I loved it! My viewing was such a joyous experience. Rarely are movies filled with so much love for their characters. Every stop along the way was filled with real authenticity. I really felt like I was in these unique places and cities. This is what movies are all about.