Film: "Chef"; Cast: Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Bobby Cannavale, Amy Sedaris, Emjay Anthony, Robert Downey Jr. Director: Jon Favreau; Rating: ***
Writer-director Jon Favreau's indie film "Chef" is a light hearted film that revolves around the life of a chef, who is passionate about his culinary art.
The narration also interlaces the chef's personal relationships and educates viewers about the impact of the social media marketing in the current scenario.
Carl Casper (Jon Favreau), the celebrity chef of a prestigious LA restaurant owned by Riva (Dustin Hoffman), is all excited and goes out of his way to prepare an exciting menu for a prominent reviewer and critic Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt), who is coming to the restaurant for dinner.
But unfortunately for him, Riva forbids him from altering the restaurant's popular menu and Ramsey in his on-line review trashes Carl by writing, "damn mean shit" about him.
After a series of Twitter rants, Carl invites Ramsey to the restaurant, again for an experiential meal. But unfortunately for him, Riva stands by his decision and Casper leaves in a huff.
Later that night, an annoyed Carl barges into the restaurant and has a face-off where he lashes out at the critic. This is captured on video that goes viral and Carl is soon a laughing stock.
Jobless and low on funds, with a view to bonding with his neglected pre-teen son Percy (Emjay Anthony), he takes on the offer made by his wealthy ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) of being a "Nanny in Miami".
Once in Miami with a little financial help from Inez's even more well to do ex-husband Marvin (Robert Downey Jr.) Casper musters his courage to follow his heart and to do his own thing. He refurbishes a food truck and serves Cuban sandwiches as a way of reconnecting with his son, jumpstarting his creativity and providing a good excuse for a road-movie journey while driving the vehicle back to LA Chef Carl Casper is happy at last!
With the behind-the-kitchen scenes, the film beautifully portrays how heartbreaking and tough the restaurant business is. It reveals how real cooks use cooking as an artistic and creative outlet.
It is not a "slacker's job," as is commonly perceived.
Like a true artist, the chef too wants appreciation when he creates something that he has put his heart and soul into. And the real dampener is when he is constantly told to play it safe or when food critics criticise merely for the sake of finding faults.
Favreau's script is written from the bottom of his heart and he candidly portrays Casper through his writing and performance.
Sofia Vergara with her husky seductive voice is appealing; she plays the concerned mother and encouraging partner with ease.
Emjay Anthony as the kid is endearing and spontaneous. So is John Leguizamo as Martin Casper's loyal assistant.
Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson as Molly the restaurant hostess were two characters, which were too short to sink in. Perhaps any actor could have essayed those roles. Similarly Dustin Hoffman and Bobby Cannavale as the sous-chef are wasted.
The production quality of the film is good and Kramer Morgenthau's camera work is flawless. Some of the food images are so brilliantly captured that you instantaneously crave for food. Also, wide-angle scenic shots are picture-postcard like, making you want to be in Miami.
The background score along with the Latino-Spanish music is also worth a mention.
Overall, 'Chef' is a well made film that is thoroughly enjoyable yet cloyingly formulaic in its presentation.