Well, the guy who was once so money back in the day with the iconic indie cult film, Swingers, has regained his “art house” mojo in a big way with Chef, easily the best film I’ve seen all year.
Written and directed by Favreau, he also plays Chef Carl Casper. Once considered the hottest slicer and dicer in town, he now rolls out a safe menu every night at a popular Brentwood bistro owned by his unimaginative, bottom-line watching boss, Riva, played expertly by Dustin Hoffman.
The film opens with Chef Carl nervously preparing a special menu in anticipation of the evening’s honored dinner guest, top blogging food critic, Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt).
“Imagine you’ve got Stones tickets, ” Riva tells his Chef. “And Jagger doesn’t play Satisfaction. You’d burn the place to the ground.”
The boss wins. The Chef loses.
And then he really really loses…his mind and then his temper.
Because Michel’s review doesn’t just criticize the cuisine, it eviscerates the Chef.
“Chef Carl Casper,” Michel writes. “Went from the edgiest Chef in Miami to that needy aunt who asks you for five bucks every time you see her.”
The critic, as he is want to do, not only condemns the artist, he belittles and humiliates. Much to the delight of the blogosphere.
If this all appears to be a relatively conventional premise, Favreau layers in the spectacularly destructive component of social media and the insane amount of power and influence it wields in modern-day society.
Twitter junkies beware, this cautionary tale is aimed square at you!
Favreau’s film, however, is not about social media. Thank God.
Chef is about following your bliss. About honoring that burning desire to be unique. To be creative.
It’s also about not losing sight of what’s important, in Carl Casper’s case that means taking the time to invest in his young son. He does this through passing on his passion for cooking (much like The Big Night and Waitress, this film will make you hungry!).
Father passes on to son the valuable life lesson of taking pride in ones’ work – and making art rather than mere commerce.
Welcome back, John Favreau. Always knew you were money. So money.