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Chef - Film Review

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by Fiona Anderson (subscribe)
A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
Published May 11th 2014
Sharpen the Knives
If you haven't had enough of cooking shows via My Kitchen Rules and Masterchef, here's another opportunity for some more cooking delights, this time on the big screen. Chef was released in Australia on 9 May 2014 and is screening at many cinemas nationwide.

From the Chef Facebook page

Chef is about Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau, who also directed and co-produced the movie), who is Head Chef at a well established Los Angeles restaurant. Chef Carl realises the restaurant's menu has reached a 'creative crisis' (read, 'stuck in the 70s, complete with caviar eggs') - however, the restaurant's owner, Riva (Dustin Hoffman), does not seem to have had the same realisation, and hence there is a point of tension. This tension reaches boiling point after a renowned food critic gives the restaurant a negative review on the basis of the dated, staid food offering, but still Riva refuses to allow changes to be made.

Chef Carl, unsurprisingly, quits his job. Naive about social media, he also finds himself in an unintended and very public Twitter battle with the food critic. Carl subsequently finds himself in Miami, where he is looking after his 10 year old son, Percy. He comes by an old food truck, and decides to take to the road, along with his son, and his former offsider Martin (John Leguizamo). He also starts to improve his relationship with his ex-wife (and Percy's mother), the gorgeous Inez (Sofía Vergara).

Hanging out of the van
Carl and Percy about to hit the road

What I liked about this movie is that it's light and doesn't require any real thought or processing. It's funny in places, and some of the cooking scenes come close to 'food porn' and are delightful to watch. I also enjoyed scenes from the US 'road trip' that takes place with the food truck.

What I wasn't so keen on was that I found it difficult to swallow the relationships between Carl and other characters in the movie. In particular, I found it hard to believe that a character like Carl, a not particularly likeable or attractive character, could have women such as the characters played by Scarlett Johansson and Sofía Vergara almost fawning over him. The relationship between Carl and his son, I didn't find believable at all; it simply didn't work for me. And when there are credibility issues like that, it means I can't get entirely absorbed in the movie, but more sit as an observer. That means the whole experience is not as enjoyable as it could be.

Writing on the board
Food truck menu

I also found the ending over-the-top on the happily-ever-after scale. I think most people like leave the cinema at the end of a movie feeling uplifted, but this level of 'everything going right' was, again, beyond credibility.

There was also a rather strange scene involving corn starch. I can't say more on that one, but really, I can't quite fathom why that scene was included.

I'm not saying don't see this movie; see it if you want something bright, light and happy with some nice cooking scenes. I would just give it a pass mark, 5 out of 10.

The running time is 115 minutes.

Here's the official trailer for the movie:

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Why? A light, fluffy, feel-good movie with some mouthwatering cooking scenes.
When: From May 9 onwards
Where: At cinemas across Australia
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