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@chefcarlcasper Nice movie.  #iamhungrynow 

Jon Favreau’s new film is funny, heartfelt, and it will make you want a grilled cheese sandwich like never before.  An excellent ensemble cast, a beautiful story, and Favreau’s eye for detail help make Chef a loving homage to food, travel, and what it means to be a family.

In Chef, Jon Favreau plays Carl Casper, a chef at a popular restaurant in Los Angeles.  While he loves cooking, the owner of the restaurant (played by Dustin Hoffman) makes Casper feel stifled creatively, while a scathing review from a renowned food blogger (Oliver Platt) makes him question if he’s doing something wrong in life.  Additionally, his home life is not going that great—he is recently divorced and he rarely makes time to see his son Percy, played by Emjay Anthony.  Eventually, Casper quits his job and, after some prodding by his ex-wife (Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara), he starts his own food truck—with a little help from Percy and his sous chef Martin (played with a great performance by John Leguizamo).

There are many scenes throughout the film that involve food, and each one of them illustrates how deep Casper’s passion is for cooking.  There are points in which the lingering shots of pasta and steak and (as previously mentioned) grilled cheese almost become gratuitous, but they are rooted in the story and they help us understand just how much Chef Casper loves what he does.  Along with adding to story and character, these scenes are shot so well that you can practically smell the food being cooked.  Along with the food, there are also some great shots of the country, particularly New Orleans, as Carl, Martin, and Percy travel from Miami to Los Angeles, stopping at many cities along the way in El Jefe, their Cuban Food Truck.

At its heart, Chef is the story about a man trying to connect.  He connects with his patrons through his food, and on his journey he learns how to connect with his son and become a better father.  He also connects with his ex-wife Inez, and with his friend and sous chef Martin.  Even in the midst of his crisis at the beginning of the film, he connects with his co-worker Molly (played by Scarlett Johansson).  Much of this is accomplished with the performances.  Favreau, the consummate actor’s director, gets the tone just right.  Even though there are some huge A-list celebrities in the film (Johansson, Hoffman, even Robert Downey Jr. makes an appearance as Inez’s other ex-husband), the film still feels intimate and real throughout.  At times, you almost forget that you are watching actors.

With a great cast, an uplifting story, and a whole lot of food, Chef will leave you with a smile on your face and a growling in your stomach.  It is not in many theaters yet, but it should still be good on your TV in a few months.  Either way, definitely check it out.


Movie Review by Mike Danner mike danner