Meals on Wheels

Monday, March 30, 2015
I always like it when the entertainment world encompasses my equally fierce love of the food world. Or at least, I like it when they do it competently. Just cause something has to do with food or cooking is no guarantee that I'll be automatically on board. I didn't worry too much when it came Chef, though. Chef is a 2014 movie written by, directed by, and starring Jon Favreau. Clearly, he felt pretty strongly about the material. It got mostly good reviews and came highly recommended by friend-and-cohost Kyle, so I was fairly certain I was in good hands.

Chef revolves around the story of Carl Casper (Favreau), a chef who has found a large measure of success at an LA restaurant, but in exchange for that success, he's given up his opportunities for creativity and personality in his menus. An acidic critic (Oliver Platt) calls him out on this, leading to a Twitter war and Casper's eventual joblessness. Casper resolves to re-discover why he became a chef, and with the help of his still-amiable ex-wife (Sofia Vergara) and sous chef (John Leguizamo), starts a cross-country trip on a food truck. The trip is his chance to not only re-ignite his career, but to forge a stronger connection with his son (Emjay Anthony), whom he's often neglected.

The movie has a lot of themes on its mind. Obviously, the importance of maintaining relationships with friends and family is the big one. No man is an island, and Chef tackles this not only by addressing Casper's attempts to make up for his disappointing parenting, but by pointing out to him that he can't accept the accolades and success for running a popular restaurant without also accepting its limitations. In order to express himself artistically, he must strike out on his own.

The movie also takes on the often-tired trope of criticism, and frankly does a better job of it than Best Picture winner Birdman. Caspar attacks Platt's character for glibly shitting all over his life's work, but the movie balances that out by admitting that Platt's review was entirely correct; Casper really has lost his way.

Not everything in the movie works. The relationship hurdles it sets up are cleared too easily. It's got a very odd view of social media, in which a taco truck cruising through town causes more online enthusiasm than it would if it were Beyonce. The story is also based on the life and work of Roy Choi, who we've met before, and who is, not to put too fine a point on it, kind of an egotistical ass.

Overall, though, it was a very enjoyable movie, and not just from a story perspective. It's got some great music, and the beauty shots of the food are incredible. If Chef accomplishes nothing else, it'll have you running for the refrigerator in no time.

Chef: B