“CHEF” My rating: B (Opening wide on May 22)
115 minutes | MPAA rating: R
The title character of “Chef” works in a hugely lucrative but artistically stifling high-end L.A. restaurant. He has a meltdown and goes off looking to regain his muse of cooking.
Interestingly enough, “Chef “ was written, directed by, and stars Jon Favreau, who first burst onto the scene as an indie auteur (“Swingers,” “Made”) before finding mucho money and Tinseltown clout cranking out superhero movies for the Marvel folk (“Iron Man”).
“Chef” can be seen as Favreau’s return to down-home cooking/filmmaking. Despite its impressively deep cast, it’s a relatively simple, modestly budgeted affair, less a banquet than a delicate palate cleanser.
Nothing earthshaking happens here. No deep emotions are plumbed or existential dilemmas explored.
But if the film is superficial, it is often slyly funny, has a real handle on the restaurant biz and its denizens, genuinely likes its characters, and tries to look on the sunny side. In short, a pleasant couple of hours at the movies.
Carl Casper (Favreau) is top chef at one of Hollywood’s most in-demand eateries. But he’s hit a creative dead end. The joint’s owner (Dustin Hoffman) doesn’t want to tinker with success and consistently nixes Carl’s attempts at an edgier menu.
When a powerful food blogger (Oliver Platt) pans the place as old hat and unimaginative, Carl has a very public meltdown that is recorded by dozens of customers, making him an Internet sensation. But while being the raving chef raises Carl’s profile, it gets him fired and makes him unemployable.
He’s got no choice but to start over. (more…)