Monday, June 2, 2014


Jon Favreau’s delightful family film

     Jon Favreau’s Chef (and it is his movie because he wrote, directed, and stars) will, I hope, be a sleeper hit.  It’s a sweet, family focused work with a salty tongue.  It’s playing at The Esquire, but with a cast including Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Bobby Cannavale, Oliver Platt, Dustin Hoffman, and Robert Downey, Jr., it feels like it
could compete with the tent pole blockbusters.  Favreau has written or directed and acted in both biggies like Iron Man and the smaller, wilder art house chestnuts like Swingers.  He doesn’t have a big name, but all of his movies are worthwhile in some way and Chef is the best movie I’ve seen that was released this year so far. 

     He must have been relieved that the only special effects he’d have to deal with in Chef were how to make cooking look
The Food Truck
interesting.  He deals with that spectacularly in various settings – loft apartment, high-end restaurant, and food truck.

Leguizamo, Anthony, and Favreau
His loose, easy-going approach with actors results in a complex ensemble.  Leguizamo and Cannavale feel like they’ve known Favreau and each other for years, though I haven’t seen them together before.  Downey has a long association with Favreau and he delivers a giddily weird cameo that had me thinking that the character was a generous sociopath.  Vergara relaxes her accent and increases her warmth, thereby becoming the heir apparent to Sophia Loren, rather than the updated Charo she seems on TV.

Sofia, or is it Sophia?

Johansson finally justifies why so many middle-aged and old straight male directors are sort of obsessed with her.  Favreau does not act like that.  Instead, he treats her as a colleague, albeit an attractive one, and she responds in a startling scene where her no-bull attitude nails Favreau’s character.

Father and Son at the Farmer's Market
     EmJay Anthony plays Percy, the ten-year old son trying to connect with his Chef father Carl (Favreau).  Anthony gives an understated, unfussy performance, but speaks volumes whenever he looks at his father.  He’s never precocious or cute, though his ability to tweet becomes a running gag that turns into a subplot.  This deserves to be seen and heard – the Latin flavored soundtrack keeps the pace percolating and matches the editing and rhythm of the cooking scenes.

     By the way, if the Miami food whets the appetite, it’s available not too far away at Louisville’s excellent Havana Rumba.  

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