Thursday, 12 June 2014

Chef - review

It has been 17 years since I first sampled the delights of Jon Favreau when he wrote and starred in Swingers, a comedy about the male side of the dating game that was so fresh and funny that the only compliment I can give it was that it was "so money".

That was followed by Elf which is a dish that has become a true Christmas classic and for many families has become as much a part of Xmas dinner as the turkey.

Then, against all the odds, he took a bunch of ingredients that seemingly didn't go together (B List superhero, a leading man previously written off by the industry, the first foundation in an extended universe gambled on by a new studio) and delivered a truly game-changing meal that set the standard for everyone over the next decade.

What followed was a period of creative frustration in the restaurant called Hollywood as Iron Man 2 was a case of too-many-cooks and the attempted fusion of Cowboys and Aliens proved rather unpalatable.

With Chef, Favreau serves up a brand new dish which sees the writer-director go back to basics. Gone are the fancy gadgets and techniques and it is clear that this is his most personal offering and he is once again cooking from the heart.

The story of a man who has out his career before his family, suffers a major setback before finding happiness in a new job and reconnecting with his family is certainly nothing new but it doesn't matter when working with ingredients as good as Downey Jr, Platt, Hoffman, Johansson and Leguizamo.

By casting himself as the titular Chef, Favreau allows the film to become a semi-autobiographical metaphor for his career and it is not only shows off his skills as a filmmaker but also now as a cook as he learned a lot of the skills in order to portray the role on camera.

Not only is it a look at his own career but this film will very much be a dish of its time with its analysis of the use of social media such as Twitter and Facebook as a form of marketing and criticism.

It puts a face on the faceless critique that social media allows us and shows the effects and consequences that it can have on the people who are being reviewed.

There might be a slightly over-generous helping of social media but Favreau keeps the pot stirring to allow for a delicious blend of authentic Americana flavours, a father-son relationship that isn't too cloying or sickly sweet, a sizzling soundtrack and just a pinch of Downey Jr to deliver one of the feel-good films of the year.

Chef is food porn at its finest, with shots of cuisine that look so good Gregg Wallace would be licking the screen in envy.

Make your reservations now as this is one Michelin starred film that you won't want to miss. I'm already booked in for seconds and can't wait to see what Favreau cooks up next.

4 stars

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