Two Years Ago Today, I saw Chef for the First Time…

I left the theater with a sense of nostalgia and I’m not quite sure why.

Caryn James once said, “Those films branded “labors of love” more often turn out to be love’s labors lost.” The pet projects. You know the films; the ones that have a director so passionate that they will not be swayed, they will not be moved, they will make this movie come hell or high water and nothing that anyone can do or say will alter their course.

Joss Whedon filmed Much Ado About Nothing in 12 days (in secret, in his own house, while he was on a break from filming Avengers.) Martin Scorsese likes to fall back typically to a Leonardo DiCaprio epic.

With Jon Favreau, I truly feel he rediscovered himself whilst writing, directing, and starring in Chef. He returned to his roots; no fancy CGI gimmicks, no large explosions, no big-budget, no high expectations, just pure clean fun complete with above-par casting, witty dialogue, and exceptional acting.

The veritable cast of characters includes the likes of Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Sofia Vergara, Bobby Cannavale, and a surprise appearance by the ever-wonderful Robert Downey Jr. In fact, there isn’t a single unrecognizable actor with the exception of Emjay Anthony, a young up-and-comer who plays Favreau’s son.

The official summary of the film reads thusly; “A chef who loses his restaurant job starts up a food truck in an effort to reclaim his creative promise, while piecing back together his estranged family.”

Chef is inherently a movie about a bad father, a bad husband…a bad everything, taking back his life by returning to the beginning and starting from scratch. In doing so, he rediscovers himself and becomes a better person. It’s a movie about a living-in-the-past father bonding with his technologically-superior son who just wants his father to be there. It’s a movie about striking the perfect balance between work and family; a tough lesson only learned after the main character has hit rock bottom.

Sure, this movie might be predictable. No one’s claiming it isn’t. But in its predictability, the audience finds a comfort in knowing that a good film doesn’t have to have a twist at the end. It doesn’t have to have cheese-ball antics to keep the crowd entertained.

Sometimes it’s enough to just tell a story with a happy ending.

When you get right down to it, Chef is a film about going back to your roots…which is precisely what Jon Favreau did within his film. As writer, director, and lead actor, he has rediscovered his indie roots post-Iron Man.

There were only about 10 people in my theater. Even so, I could hear chuckles throughout, and at the end, actual clapping. As the credits rolled, I found myself riveted to my seat, not wanting it to be over, despite knowing that there was no more story to tell. I wanted to go out to South Beach and find a food truck…on Memorial Day Weekend! (Wanted to…..didn’t actually–I’m not crazy–but I did think it.)

So, to bring this review to a rather abrupt end before I ramble onto a second page extolling its virtues, Chef, in my book, receives the highest accolades I can give it. Let me be the first to say that I’d delight in going to see this movie again and I will be purchasing it on DVD the second I have the ability to do so.

The Mommy Factor:
The comedy never steps over bounds, as several films have taken to doing in this day and age. It earns its R rating simply for the vocabulary that you hear in a typical kitchen. It is, as Favreau himself claimed, “a soft R.” There’s no nudity, no sex, and only one visual (not verbal) reference to drug use. Honestly, I’d recommend that anyone can and should go see this movie. The language isn’t harsh or jarring. It flows naturally throughout the plot, to the point where it’d seem awkward without it. (Thinking back now, I don’t even really remember any actual cursing. Then again, I’m not a parent, nor was I watching…parentally.)


[This post originally appeared on Facebook.]

Author: alisonlcohn

Graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Communications Advertising. Traveled a bit. Taught for two years. Administered aptitude tests for a while. Worked as a Training Associate for Guardian Mortgage and a Quiz Master for Geeks Who Drink. Now studying to get my Master's in Film in London, England. Nice to meet you!

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