SXSW Review: Jon Favreau’s ‘Chef’

Chef-sxsw

As much as I like most of the big-budget films that Jon Favreau has directed, if he just stuck to smaller, personal films like Chef, you would never hear a complaint from me.

Chef, written, directed and starring Favreau, is a little gem of a movie. Though, to be honest, if he cut out 15 minutes, it would make the film that much better.

Favreau stars as Chef Carl Casper, one of the top Chef’s in Los Angeles. When the biggest food critic in town decides to re-review the restaurant he works at, the owner (Dustin Hoffman) wants to play it safe; stick to the same foods he’s been making for years and no funny stuff. Casper does so – reluctantly – and it turns out to bite him in the butt with a scathing review. Out of protest, he quits but with no prospects for another job, he takes up his ex-wife’s (Sophia Vergara) offer to travel with her and their son (Emjay Anthony) to Miami.

Finding his creative juices once again, he decides to open a food truck and calls on his friend (John Leguizamo) and son to take a road trip back to LA. As they stop in city after city, he finds re-discovers his passion for food and gets back the bond with his son.

Favreau is great and he seems to be enjoying every second he’s on-screen. His character isn’t much of a stretch for him but the journey is. For years he’s either been second banana or on the other side of the camera and you can just tell he’s loving his time front and center. The cast he’s assembled – Vergara, Leguizamo, Hoffman, Anthony, Scarlett Johansson, Oliver Platt, Bobby Cannavale and Robert Downey, Jr. – are terrific, especially Downey in his brief scene.

But, I have to warn you, do not go into this film hungry. I did and by after the film, I ran to go grab a slice of pizza. Chef is pure food porn. Favreau shoots food like Annie Leibovitz shoots celebrities; lovingly and like no other. Shot after shot made my mouth water. 

Like I wrote earlier, the film does have a couple slow points but it’s a total welcome to have Favreau back to small films where he truly excels. 

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