Chef Review
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Throughout his filmmaking career, Jon Favreau has had his share of highs and lows—from the overwhelming success of 2008’s Iron Man to the big-budget mess of 2011’s Cowboys & Aliens. But in returning to his roots for the lovable indie comedy Chef, the filmmaker seems to get his groove back right along with his character.

Chef is a deliciously simple feel-good film about taking a step back to reevaluate your life. Writer, director, and producer Favreau also stars as Carl Casper, a promising chef who runs the kitchen in a restaurant where the owner (Dustin Hoffman) prefers tradition to innovation. And when a popular food blogger trashes him for his lack of creativity, Carl begins a Twitter war that ends with him quitting his job.

Pressured by his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara) and aided by her ex-husband (Robert Downey, Jr.), Carl renovates a run-down food truck in Miami and sets out on a cross-country road trip with his old friend, Martin (John Leguizamo), and his son, Percy (Emjay Anthony), to reignite his passion for food.

Far from the big-budget sci-fi thrillers that Favreau has made in recent years, Chef is simple and stripped-down and irresistibly delightful. Instead of focusing his attention on flashy effects, Favreau is free to craft a story, taking the time to develop his main character while sending him off on a rich and vibrant personal journey.

Carl is a lovable guy who’s just gone off the rails—both personally and professionally. In giving his career his undivided attention, he’s lost both his family and his joy. Though he loves to create new dishes, his job has him going through the motions—and, in the little time he has left, he treats his son to elaborate outings that mean very little to either of them. But after everything comes crashing down around him, he’s forced to start from scratch—and, in the process, he discovers what’s truly important to him: his family, his friends, and his food.

Meanwhile, as Carl begins to find his soul, the movie does, too. And as the chef and his crew cook up Cuban dishes while making their way across the country, Favreau gives each step of their journey its own personality and style, using music, food, and the energy of each scene to show the heart and soul of cities like Miami and New Orleans.

At the same time, Favreau seems to use Carl’s story to reignite his own passion for filmmaking. In each scene—but especially during Carl’s culinary road trip—it’s clear that he’s simply enjoying the adventure, surrounding himself with friends while telling his own story in his own way. His contentment is infectious, too, which makes this delicious indie a gratifying and uplifting experience for viewers, too.

Chef is the kind of film that proves that you don’t need a big budget or expensive effects to make a truly enjoyable film—though it doesn’t hurt to have some talented friends. The story may not be especially surprising, but the humor, the style, and the easy-going charm of this lovable road trip comedy might just remind you why you fell in love with movies in the first place.

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