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Chef (Movie Review)


Chef is an independent comedy-drama written, produced, directed and starring Jon Faverau. It follows Faverau’s character, Carl Casper: A California chef whose creative style of cooking becomes stifled by the manager of his restaurant and an unfolded event. This leads him to go out on his own in a food truck to discover and cook as he pleases. In a film industry with several blockbusters coming out each month, it becomes easier to get drowned in explosive, wow-factor escapisms that $100 million (at minimum) budgets try to create. Sure, some of these large-scale endeavours bring interesting narratives to the table, but it’s becoming less often now that we have the opportunity to be drawn into genuine human stories that have productions based on their characters instead of the special effects. Alongside making you crave every meal you see on-screen, Chef does just that with it's explored themes and joyful spirit.

A chef's wondrous creativity at it's best.

A Five Star Course

Firstly, let’s talk about the food. Oh god, the food. Every item of food you see: how it’s prepared, how it looks, the skill and method required to create each dish. Whether it’s Chef Casper experimentally cooking something new or a Texas BBQ cook showing off some char-grilled; slow cooked pork, you’ll salivate at the care, precision and expertise implemented into the film’s execution. Before filming, Faverau even spent a lot of time shadowing and working as a part of a Korean BBQ chef’s kitchen staff to learn a different style of cooking as a craft. He wanted to do this himself before presenting it on-screen, as both a chef and film-maker and it shows both naturally and beautifully, at least to make you hungry enough to order some Chinese food afterwards.

The film’s journey shares a 50/50 focus with Carl reigniting his passion for creative cooking whilst simultaneously bridging the gap between himself and the relationship with his son, whose mother he divorced prior to the story. Exploration of this relationship can take a while to start its pace, but by the middle of the third act, you’ll have felt a lot of warmth in your heart and will have nearly welled up once or twice. Nearly all of the characters at least have a few moments that give you a light-hearted grin. Chef isn't just all about the food, but also a lot of character development that looks at the then and now of Carl's relationships with his family. The smaller production scale appears to have created the opportunity for a well blended and focused mixture of these two elements.

That marinated BBQ pork though. Beautiful!

Alongside the message telling you to do what you love and keep those you love close, Chef also explores what it’s like to have a career that’s openly in the spotlight for public opinion and criticism. Whether you’re musician; singer, writer or well... a chef, technology and social media have made it more accessible for your work to receive criticism whether it be positive or negative. Chef effectively highlights both sides of criticism with an emotional impact. The positivity is highlighted further on, but the look into the negatives of social media shows how hard it can hurt those in the public eye when they put themselves out there, doing what they love and being bashed for it. You can’t help but feel for Faverau’s Carl Casper as his love for the industry is being dragged down. However, this only makes you more content to see his journey go in the right direction.

Definitely Jon Faverau's best & funniest performance to date!

A potential gripe of the film could be the conclusion of its third act. Not that it’s a bad ending. It’s just that it arrives very quickly and in an unexpected way, like an “oh, that escalated quickly. I guess it's over?” sort of ending. With a few extra minutes added to the runtime, the pacing of the ending scenes could have been executed a little bit smoother and in a different way. In addition; Robert Downey Junior’s character, Marvin, was one of the best surprises of the film. The fact he’s only in one scene makes him feel so underused. Also, the portrayal of Carl’s son, Percy by Emjay Anthony feels slightly plain. The level of plain that makes it feel as if the role could have been played by almost any male child actor of the same age. Nevertheless, Faverau’s performance stands out as one of the best of his career: a great feat whilst tasked with directing simultaneously and being among such a great cast already.

Verdict

Chef is a prime example of how the size of a film’s budget has nothing to do with the quality of its result. It’s a small and personal story involving colourful characters with probably some of the best on-screen food you’ll ever see prepared and presented. You’ll not only be drawn into pallet-tingling visual marvels of each meal; but also the well-paced, and character-developed journey that will hardly make you notice the almost two hour runtime. It’ll make you smile, laugh and probably make you feel hungrier with every watch. As of the time of writing this review, Chef’s currently on Netflix ready to watch and is definitely worth your money buying it on DVD or Blu-ray otherwise. Just make sure not to watch it on an empty stomach though. It’s for your own safety.

Rating: 9/10

 
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