Let me begin with a warning: Do not, under any circumstances,
watch this movie without some sort of snack in arm’s reach. Movie popcorn isn’t
going to cut it, either. Nibbling through the opening credits will quickly turn
into a binge as Chef reveals itself
to be the ultimate food lover’s delight. Whether it is the movie critic’s
delight, however, is yet to be seen.
Chef, a film
written, directed by and starring Jon Favreau (Iron Man), divides its time and energy between strong character
relationships and mouthwatering food. The scenes flip from chopping vegetables
to a distant father-son relationship, a sizzling grilled cheese sandwich to witty
banter between chef and sous-chef. Dishes never fail to impress; yet most relationships
somehow seem to fall flat.
The movie opens as Chef Casper and his clever team prepare
for the biggest night of their careers, with the infamous food critic Ramsey Michel’s
evaluation of their restaurant. The crew’s efforts are quickly cut short,
however, by the inexplicably obstinate restaurant owner’s insistence on an old
and outdated menu. Casper’s momentous inward—and somewhat outward—battle quickly reveals the main conflict: to cook with
individuality or to continue working unhappily in a “creative rut.”
Add in a teaspoon of an unhappy family situation and Chef has a plot outside of its tempting cuisine.
The causes of Chef Casper’s problems, though, seem to stem only from his own
pigheadedness. His perfect ex-wife, played by the stunning Sofía Vergara,
spends the entire film supporting, loving and standing prettily in the background.
His doting son, Percy (an impressive, 11-year-old actor), wants nothing more
than a loving family and cleans, cooks and shops alongside his begrudging
Casper’s dissatisfaction peaks as the broken family travels to
Miami to reignite passion in both the chef’s work and their own relationships (cue the “aw”). There, Casper finds inner
fulfillment in a rundown food truck, and the film’s best parts ensue on an
amusing and feel-good road trip back to Los Angeles.
Although Chef succeeds
in maintaining an interesting plot throughout, its character and relationship
development often fail to spark genuine emotion. This can be seen as Percy
Casper struggles to build a connection with his father—their relationship
fluctuates between touching and cliché.
The minor scenes, though, are especially poignant. A
stirring moment depicting Casper’s fatherly guidance arises when Percy asks if
he can serve a burnt sandwich to a non-paying customer. Casper replies that you
can’t just like cooking; you must love it, and thus you cannot serve anything
that is not a masterpiece. Such portrayals of fatherly advice bring us closer
to Percy and Casper’s budding relationship.
The ending, however, can only be described as pat. A pat ending is suspiciously appropriate; all
endings are tied up, every character left smiling. But, as an audience, do we
feel resolved? I certainly did not. Do fairy-tale endings really exist? No, and
we like it that way. So skip the last 12 minutes, get off the couch and go
make that grilled cheese sandwich you’ve been longing for since the opening
credits when Chef Casper made one.
But don’t believe me, just watch.
Sawyer Henshaw SC ’17 is a media studies major. Believe it or not, the film columnist wasn’t allowed to watch R-rated movies until she was 17 years old.