I went into this one not knowing what to expect, and I came to find out that was the best way to take on this film. Jon Favreau writes, directs and stars in Chef, a film about a down-on-his-luck chef who decides to start his own food truck in order to reclaim his career, his respect, his creative spark and–unknowingly to him at the time–his family. On the surface, this sounds extremely schmaltzy to the point of inducing vomiting. And yes, there is a certain degree of that in this movie, but Favreau tells the story in a way that has you pulling for the protagonist and feeling his frustrations as well as laughing at his embarrassments.
If you saw the poster, you already know that this cast is loaded with star power, and nearly all of them bring their A-game. They feel like believable characters, and if you’ve ever worked in a high-end restaurant, you’ve probably met some of these people.
My experiences were more like this.
The story was simple but not terribly cliched either. There were moments when a few familiar tropes made appearances, like “the misunderstanding”, the divorced couple remembering what they loved about each other, the working parent who can never make time for the child, etc. Of course that doesn’t make the story bad. Some moments feel a touch predictable, but the actors tell it so well that you find yourself not really caring.
Favreau’s direction is on par with his previous works: engaging, easy to follow and fun. I can’t help but feel that this movie was a bit more personal for him. The attention to detail with the cooking was pretty heavy. The shots and angles taken whenever he was preparing dishes nearly bordered on food porn.
Be careful if you bring any snacks into the cinema with you if you see it; you will devour it before you even remember you brought.
In the end, I was pleasantly surprised by Chef. It’s very entertaining, funny and makes you love fancy food as much as the characters. Yes, it’s a touch on the saccharine side and doesn’t offer much to surprise you, but if you enjoy good old-fashioned road trip movies, give this one a shot. If you don’t, treat it like the food you never wanted to eat as a kid. You won’t know whether or not you like it until you try it.