Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Jon Favreau's New Passion Project Left Us Salivating: Our Review of "Chef" (2014)

Directed By: Jon Favreau (Iron Man

Starring: Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Emjay Anthony, Sofia Vergara, Bobby Cannavale

Rating: R for language, including some suggestive references

Run Time: 1 hour, 54 minutes

Synopsis: Carl Casper (Favreau), a well-reknowned Los Angeles chef, receives a vicious review from a prominent food critic which starts a chain of events that results in Carl quitting his job and opening his own food truck in Miami with his best friend (Leguizamo) at the insistence of his ex-wife (Vergara) and son (Anthony).


Andrew: Hello dear readers! Sunday marked the third movie of the weekend for me and Sarah, we're hardcore like that. This time we checked out a film written by, directed by and starring Jon Favreau called Chef.

Sarah: It's a smaller film that has been out for a little while in the limited release phase but is now open to larger markets.

A: Right! Favreau (The Replacements) stars as Carl Casper, a famous and world-class chef who loses his job after a strong disagreement with his restaurant's owner, played by Dustin Hoffman, and subsequently gets into a very public argument with a food critic that gave him a scathing review...

S: And after some deep thinking, Carl decides to open his own food truck at the behest of/support from his ex-wife, played by the great Sofia Vergara (Modern Family) so he can get back to his passion of cooking.

A: So with the help of his best friend Martin, played by John Leguizamo (Ice Age), and his son Percy...

S: Whom he is not very close with and go on a cross-country road trip to get the truck back from Miami to Los Angeles and along the way discover his passion for cooking again along with a little father/son bonding time.
A: This was a film I know I had been looking forward to ever since we saw the first trailer for it mainly because the trailer itself looked like food porn and it looked like it had a great cast - Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale (Blue Jasmine), Scarlett Johansson (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Dustin Hoffman (Kung Fu Panda), Sofia Vergara, and the awesome Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man 3). Just a great cast. 

And I liked the concept of this disgraced chef trying to get back to his roots via food truck. So now that we've seen it, Sarah, what did you think of Chef?

S: Well I was definitely looking forward to seeing it. I've been following Favreau on Twitter throughout the entire process of him making the movie and then following to see when it would be released to a wider audience. This was such a super huge passion project of his actually, so I was very interested to see how he was going to translate that onto the screen. 

Let me start out by saying, readers, that Andrew and I love food trucks. We have turned many a friend and family member onto the food truck movement. It's one of the things we love to do together, trying new things and the whole atmosphere is just so cool and so much fun and I think this movie perfectly captured the essence of that experience! It basically bottled how we feel when we go to food trucks and they put it on the screen. And I loved that! I thought it was so fantastic! 

I loved how…ok, so I'm not a huge fan of Favreau the actor. I think he does a fine job directing movies and while this movie is mainly about his character, it really was an ensemble cast performance. I loved it for that. Even the characters that came in for a short while and then went out left an impact on the film and I didn't feel like their talent was wasted. You could tell they all wanted to be there because Favreau was able to get them to be as passionate about this film as he was. And I felt that as a viewer in the audience. Fantastic. What did you think?

[Editor's note: Following the movie as we recorded this review we headed straight to our local Atlanta Food Truck Park to grab some yummylicious food.]

A:  Plainly, I'll state that, thus far, this might be my favorite movie that we have seen this year.

S: Really?! And this is the fourth movie that we've seen in the past week…and we've seen some good ones! So that's high praise!

A: I suppose I could narrow it down by saying, "As far as non-blockbusters go," because Captain America: The Winter Soldier was great, Godzilla was awesome but...just from just an entire aspect of a movie...I loved the characters, I loved the visuals, I thought the script was very sharp, and I thought the relationships between the characters was really strong. I mean, when Leguizamo's Martin shows up in Miami unannounced to help his best friend, they had set that up already so well that it seemed very organic.

S: Yeah, I believed it. I believed that that is what those two friends would do for each other because I believed in their friendship.

A: The story was great, it was believable. And Casper's entire character arc felt so organic and satisfying. Just from an entire movie standpoint, it's been my favorite movie of the year so far. 

I loved the music, the food looked amazing and, from what it appeared, Favreau and Leguizamo did all their own cooking on set, which made it that much more involved as a movie. [Editor's note: Favreau was taught to cook by prominent food truck chef, Roy Choi, for the film. All his cooking is legit him.] It just shows you how much work and preparation they put in to making this movie that much more authentic. And the cast, like you said, was brilliant. Even the actors that came in for a short time and then left were great; RDJ and Johansson were so fun to see in this film.

S: And what I loved is that they were able to come in for a short time and not overpower the scenes because their stars are so big. Because those are big Avengers stars, they're HUGE in Hollywood right now, but they don't overpower this film at all!

A: One of the best actors of all-time, Dustin Hoffman, doesn't overpower either. His scenes as the owner of Carl's restaurant felt so realistic in that is how that relationship would be between them. I just really loved that aspect of it. I was smiling a ton throughout, laughing, enjoying the relationships. I think that was the biggest part, truly.

S: I'm not sure that anything else rally needs to be said. It's not in huge release so if this movie comes to your local theater you need to go see it. I think this movie falls into line with movies like Crazy, Stupid, Love. Not huge blockbuster movies, but movies that really hone in and get to the heart of the story and really develop the characters and give you something as the audience to really grab ahold of and root for, get excited about and evoke emotion. We were STARVING after this movie! So we went to support our local food tucks instead of just going home. And I think that's fantastic that a movie could do that.

A: So the marketing for this film hasn't been bad, but it's sort of misrepresented about what the actual story is. They make it seem like it's more about the food and the food truck - and it is! - but the heart of the movie is between Carl and his son, played very well by Emjay Anthony. I thought this movie did a phenomenal job of showing a father/son relationship that's strained, distant and then Carl's attempts to get closer to his son and his failings even then. 

They showed the movie through the eyes of the kid a number of times and that's not something that a lot of movies can do well. Especially an adult movie like this. I felt like Favreau did an amazing job as writer, director and star to really get that point across. 

I also found this movie to be the best movie at showing what social media - Facebook, Twitter, Vine, etc. - can be used for in a positive light, and it did so very creatively. Yeah, we so highly recommend this movie.

S: Highly recommend this movie. This is a movie that needs to be seen.

A: We should say that there's language but it's all very organic and just makes sense in that environment. Especially in the kitchen and faced with the situations that Carl faces. So maybe not necessarily great for kids but a great film and a great alternative to all of these blockbusters. I also want to mention, I think this is the best role I've ever seen Sofia Vergara in.

S: We love her in Modern Family, she's hilarious, but this was Vergara acting in a very different way. I feel like Modern Family only has her do a caricature of a Latina trophy wife, but in this we actually saw that she has some acting chops! And we haven't seen her in much outside of Modern Family but she was great in this.

A: It was such a different role for her compared to Gloria. On Modern Family she's loud and boisterous. But here she adds a lot of the heart to the movie and she's sort of Carl's conscience, pointing out that Carl needs to spend more time with his son and she was also the one who kept putting the bug in Carl's ear about the food truck. She just does it in such a good way that I feel that that must be what Vergara is like in real life. She was great.

S: The whole cast was great. The movie was great. Yep, loved it. As soon as it comes to your theater, check it out!

FINAL VERDICT: A must-see in theatres!

(Individual Scores - S: 5/5  A: 5/5)

Photo Courtesy: forcesofgeek.com

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