Swingers holds a special place in my heart. That place is a tiny neighborhood where Swingers‘ neighbors are movies like Clerks, Bottle Rocket and Reservoir Dogs. These movies came about when I was really getting into the power of language and they inspired me. They left a impression on me, a lasting one that will stick with me for quite some time.
Because Jon Favreau was the brains behind Swingers, I am a Favreau loyalist. Made kind of just felt like swingers in New York with a Mafia tip to it- but I watched it. Then he became more of a director and for the most part I’ve been all in on his movies – Elf, Iron Man 1 and Iron Man 2. Shit man, I’ve even tried watching Cowboys and Aliens four or five times not because I’m a fan of cowboys and/or aliens but because I’m a fan of Favs. Still couldn’t make it more than thirty minutes in, though. Everything, even devotion, has it’s limits I guess.
Needless to say, when I heard that Favreau was going back to his indie roots for his new movie and temporarily ditching the big boy pants of summer block busters, I was on board. It was like the Roots taking a pass on another collaboration and making a new Roots album or drunk McNulty kicking sober McNulty to the curb. The welcome sight of someone reminding you why you fell in love with them in the first place.
Chef is Favreau getting back to basics; back to the modus operandi that put him on the map with Swingers. No explosions, no superheroes, no talking snowmen. Just witty and well-written dialogue, genuine humor, great story-telling and awesome performances. It’s not a sibling of Swingers like Made was, but more of a cousin- an older, more mature cousin with a worldlier view. It’s the cousin who baby sat for you and gave you a sip of beer for the first time. Chef is the product of a more seasoned Favreau, but also a Favreau who hasn’t forgotten where he came from.
It’s also a downright wonderful movie.
No really, it’s delightful in the most delightful sense of the word.
No dude, I’m serious. It’s like, really, really good.
Going in, here’s all you need to know…
Favreau is a chef in L.A.; a hot shot chef working at an upscale joint run by Dustin Hoffman. Wow, Dustin Hoffman? Yeah, Dustin Hoffman. A well-known food blogger is coming in to review the restaurant and homeboy is a big deal, recently selling his foodie blog for ten million bucks. He has klout. You mean, clout? No, Klout. That social media scoring bullshit. His Klout score would be near a hundred. And he’s coming in to review the place. Favreau’s character wants to do it up right- really wow this dude. Only Dustin Hoffman, owner of the restaurant, will have none of it and tells Favreau’s character to leave the new tracks at home and to focus on the hits, which Favreau does. It doesn’t go well. The review is a shitty-talking-filled A bomb, Favreau’s character…Carl, his name is Carl…makes it worse via social media and yadda yadda yadda finds himself unemployed and looking for a new gig. His ex-wife, Sofia Vergara, urges him to go to Miami with her and her son, Perry. There Carl ends up picking up a food truck, a renewed purpose in life and embarks on a journey back to L.A. with his son and Line Chef for Life John Leguizamo. By the time they reach L.A., Carl…nope, that’s far enough. That’s all you need to know.
The movie is sweet as hell; a movie as comfort food like the super delicious cubano sandwiches Carl ends up slinging from his truck. This isn’t just about a chef or someone re-discovering a passion- it’s about a father and son connecting and about enjoying the absolutely wonderful meal that the simple joys in life are. This shit makes you feel good. As the end credit rolls and the Cuban music plays, you want to hide under the seat; wait for the next showing. I’m not sure when was the last time I enjoyed a movie so much and I’m talking flat out enjoyment. Chef isn’t necessarily a remarkable artistic achievement, but it’s a hell of a home run in good ol’ fashion story-telling. You know, like Swingers was. Swingers was great because of the relationship between Favreau’s character and Vince Vaughn’s character. It’s that old human element Dave Grohl loves so much- only in terms of movies and not music. Favreau expertly captures the human element, the human relationship, the human emotions and interactions. Iron Man was great. So was Elf. But I’d love to see Favreau make more movies like Chef, because I really feel that’s where he shines.
Will he, though?
Well, his next movie is The Jungle Book, so at least not in the near future.
But that doesn’t matter because you know something like Chef is inside of him. It’s the ace up his sleeve.
And it’s a hell of an ace.
So for your consideration, Chef- delightful in the most delightful sense of the word.
Also for your consideration, the film’s soundtrack- chalk full of muy delicious Cuban jams.
Photos: Open Road Films