I remember the feeling I got after watching “Big Night” – that feeling of wanting to cook something, anything, just for the art of it. When I watched Jon Favreau’s new film, “Chef,” I got that same feeling. As with most films, this movie had positives and negatives, but thankfully more of the former. A good movie must have a good plot or else it dribbles away like watery French onion soup. For the most part, “Chef” succeeds. It’s definitely unique: a brilliant chef goes crazy on a critic, loses his job, and ends up food-trucking across the country while repairing a broken family relationship.
There are a few weak parts, however. For one, there is a very odd dynamic between Carl (Favreau) and his ex-wife, Inez (Sofia Vergara). The reason they divorced is never made clear; Carl just tells his son that they couldn’t be married anymore. Regardless, Carl takes Inez on a trip to Miami and even dances with her at a nightclub. And further into the movie you can see that there are obviously feelings between them. While I’m not saying that this doesn’t happen, it is a little bit outside of reality.
It’s obvious that there is a lot of tension between Carl and his son, Percy (Emjay Anthony). But there is also a well-done side story where the two bond through the food truck. It’s cheesy, but it’s presented well and isn’t too prominent, which reflects well on Favreau as a director.
The ending also made me a bit uncomfortable. The food critic (Ramsey Michel) who had originally caused Favreau to lose it suddenly appears at the food truck. He apologizes for his actions and praises the food – which is nice, cliché as the villain-turned-good storyline is. He then explains that he sold his influential website in order to buy Carl a restaurant to run. This is one of those unfortunate situations when a movie reminds us that it isn’t real. The perfect movie should capture the audience in a veil of fantasy so plausible that we forget we’re watching characters on a screen.
But these are relatively minor mistakes. The bond between Carl and his sous-chef Martin (John Leguizmo) is brilliant. Both do an incredible job interacting with Percy, culminating in a very convincing newfound relationship within the cooking family. The dynamic on the food truck is something that simply cannot be taught.
Another positive aspect of “Chef” is the musical score. It is absolutely amazing and subtly changes to complement the plot shifts.
Although “Chef” does have some mistakes, it contains strong performances reinforced by a nice plot and refreshing music.
This film is rated R.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.