I'm Stephanie and i love films, here i will post spoiler-free reviews!

Friday, 20 June 2014


Jon Favreau tries his hand as a triple threat writer-actor-director in the food-orientated comedy-drama Chef (15).

When Chef Carl Casper (Favreau) gets a bad review from notorious online critic Ramsey Michel, he finds himself being creatively stunted by the restaurant's owner. Unwilling to compromise his talent any longer, Carl quits his job and is eventually coaxed into opening his own food truck, where he rediscovers his love of cooking and zest for life.

My biggest issue with Chef is that in Carl Casper Favreau has created perhaps the most unlikable protagonist in this genre's recent history. There are clear attempts throughout the film that are supposed to make him seem likable - he is the typical 'funny fat guy', he is the underdog, he is the film's hero. However, it is hard to warm to a character that would be close contender for the top spot of 'Worst Dad of the Year Award'. 

Separated from his son Percy (Emjay Anthony)'s mum, Carl sees his son every other weekend and even then most of the time he drops him home early so that he can get back to the kitchen despite Percy's clear desperation to spend time with his father, so much so that he practically begs to be taken into work with him. When Carl gets the food truck the two characters begin to bond, however it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth when the only way a father will bond with his young son is when the son forces himself into his father's life and desperately tries to share his father's passion. The only conversations that Carl has with his son are about food, cooking and being a chef. The only time Carl spends with his son is when his son is cleaning his truck and serving the customers. It is actually quite disconcerting to see such a forced father-son relationship where there is no doubt left in your mind that if the son wasn't sharing his father's passions, his father would want nothing to do with him - not once did we see Carl ask Percy about his personal life, his schoolwork or his own passions. To put it frankly, Carl is a selfish man-child; the entire film is all of the other characters flocking around him and he taking them for granted and as much as I wanted all of his acquaintances to succeed, it seemed as though Carl needed to fail in order to be brought down a peg or two and learn what the real value of life is.

The story arc was clearly supposed to see Carl better himself as the film progressed, however, despite the fact that Carl is in a happier place work and family wise he still isn't a better person. The big 'wow' moment that is supposed to come when he finally enjoys spending time with Percy is discredited due to the fact the only time he enjoys spending with him is when Percy is working for him. Yes, Percy shares his dad's passion for food, probably because he realised at a young age this is the only way his dad will pay him any attention, but the fact is Carl should have wanted to spend time with his son even if his son's passion was different to his own. 

Alongside the unlikability of Chef Carl Casper, the film was much too long. The demise of Carl's reputation following the bad review at the beginning of the film was far too dragged out and did not have to be spread to the same length as the second half of the film where he starts to find his feet again. To be honest, it felt as
Leguizamo and Anthony steal the show
though there were a lot of scenes that should have ended up on the cutting room floor and it can only be Favreau's misguided passion for the film that made him reluctant to cut any of the gratuitous scenes, which is ironically to the film's detriment.

The film has three saving graces:
  1. The food porn (I defy anybody to leave the cinema without a growling stomach!)
  2. Emjay Anthony's brilliant performance as the adorable Percy.
  3. John Leguizamo's heartfelt performance as Carl's best friend and su-chef Martin.

Leguizamo in particular needs to be receiving more of the credit for the film, he counter-balances Carl's unintentional unlikability by being constantly full of life and holding a genuine warmth to his character with his reappearance halfway through the film is the only thing to stop it turning completely stale.

Emjay Anthony gives Percy everything that he has got and his ability exceeds many other actors of his age, making him certain to be one to watch in the future.

Unfortuantely, these two characters were just not enough to forgive Carl for his wrong doings, and the fact that Favreau wrote Carl to be the film's hero, not Martin or Percy, proves that this was totally unintentional and Carl is merely the product of bad writing. 

All in all, there should be more to a character than his love of food, more dimensions to a character than his vocation and more elements to a father-son relationship than the son desperately trying to claw some affection out of his selfish and horribly neglectful dad. Instead of a 'warm fuzzy feeling' as promised, Chef leaves you feeling slightly uncomfortable and also tempted to create a Bechdel-Test-esque theory for father-son relationships that don't revolve around the father. 

Chef is in UK cinemas from June 25th!

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