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SXSW Review: Chef

Score:B-

Director:Jon Favreau

Cast:Jon Favreau, Emjay Anthony, John Leguizamo, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson

Running Time:114 Minutes

Rated:R

Jon Favreau goes back to his indie roots with Chef. Let me put it this way, if Emril and Paula Deen had a baby they would conceive chef Carl Casper (Favreau), a chef from LA who wants to explore his creativity in the kitchen. His boss (Dustin Hoffman) wants him to stick to what works at the restaurant because a very famous food blogger (Oliver Platt) has been invited to write about Chefs menu; unfortunately the critic rips apart Casper's menu, calling it safe and boring.

Chef Casper, a newbie at Twitter, challenges the critic to come back and try a more ambitious menu; however, this plan backfires as his boss nixes the plan again for the original menu. After a tumultuous confrontation with the food critic, chef gets fired, and his integrity is tested as he struggles to get back onto his feet. With a crumbling marriage and distant relationship with his son (Emjay Anthony) chef's ex wife (Sofia Vergara) asks him to accompany her and his son to Miami. This is where he is inspired to start up a food truck.

I'll be honest; I had high hopes for this film going into it. I was a little let down with how Favreau decided to let it play out. It seemed a little too safe for what's sure to be an R-rated film. Don't get me wrong, some of the dialogue had me in stitches, but the overall story arc and lack of character development had my palate craving more.  Having said that, it was nice to see Favreau go back to a more personal and reflective piece of work after the Iron Man series. Some of the characters in the film were mere silhouettes, Bobby Cannavale, who I thought was excellent in a supporting role in Blue Jasmine, was left twiddling his thumbs in this one. Scarlett Johansson character had no development what so ever, and Dustin Hoffman disappears before we could say "bon apatite".

With Chef, Favreau definitely had a great concept for a script about a brilliant, yet tormented chef, who is restricted in his craft, both professionally and at home; it just needed more script revisions in the editing room. The overall direction of the film was solid, but the execution missed the mark. When it could have taken a darker turn, it chose to play safe and appease the audience, especially the road trip sequence and last 1/3rd of the film.  The music was vibrant and eclectic, just like the food dishes created on the screen. The cinematography glistened beautifully and the acting was top notch. My only caveat is with the script and direction choices.

Chef is a solid comeback after the abysmal Cowboy and Aliens; it just needed more time to marinate in the fridge. Overall, I encourage people to see this film; just don't expect a dark, gritty comedy, like I was. 

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About Matt Kerwin

Matt Kerwin

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