After helping to revive Robert Downey Jr’s film career, as well as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Jon Favreau has mainly been working from behind the camera as a director or executive producer, leaving him little opportunity to remind filmgoers that he can also act. After a series of small, supporting roles in lacklustre comedy films, his latest project effectively showcases his ability to effectively handle multiple roles in a film, regardless of whether he is in front of the camera or behind it.
Chef sees the talented Carl (Favreau), a head chef in a Los Angeles restaurant owned by Riva (Dustin Hoffman). As Carl’s efforts to modernise out the restaurant’s dated menu are shot down by Riva, his reaction to a negative review from prolific food blogger Ramsel Michel (Oliver Platt) launches him into social media ‘stardom’, resulting in him quitting his job. With the help of his ex-wife Inez (Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara), his social media-savvy son Percy (EmJay Anthony) and his friend Martin (John Leguizamo), Carl finds himself going back to his roots, reinventing his career in a way that he didn’t think was possible.
As the star, writer, director and producer, Favreau’s Chef shows a personal side that is easily relatable. Here is a character whose creativity has been continuously stifled but he has a chance to change his approach in an industry that has changed immensely – it is a feel-good plot that provides a sense of motivation. As a plus, the simple story of Carl Casper doesn’t have to do a lot to charm the audience; its witty script and effortless direction practically invites us into his world, with the scenes highlighting the gorgeous array of dishes created by Carl putting Instagram food photographers to shame.
His on-screen relationship with young Anthony shows a conscious emotive war between the two. The characters are involved in different things and strive to find common ground, but when the struggling father and eager son unite their knowledge in Carl’s new venture, their relationship becomes much deeper and a lot more thoughtful. The fact that Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson make brief appearances in the film doesn’t draw a lot of focus from the core story, which is something to breathe a sigh of relief for.
Chef is light-hearted and delicious to watch, marking a refreshing change of direction to the blockbusters he is normally associated with.
Chef is out in UK cinemas on Friday 27th June.
Director: Jon Favreau
Writer: Jon Favreau
Stars: Jon Favreau, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson
Runtime: 114 min