Flix is a weekly series that reviews a movie available on Netflix. This week, I review the 2014 film “Chef.”
In our modern media-saturated society, it seems that everything can be sensationalized; it’s gotten to the point that most of us have become oblivious to the inexorable influence the internet has on our lives. But every once in a while, a movie will hold the proverbial mirror up to society and reveal the social realities that most of us either forget or avoid. Writer and director Jon Favreau’s 2014 comedy-drama “Chef” happens to be one of those few brave films.
Set in the upbeat media-centric world of Brentwood, Los Angeles, the film follows Carl Casper (played by Jon Favreau), a head chef at a trendy restaurant whose technological impairment causes him to inadvertently start a flame war with a prestigious food critic, who finds Carl’s cooking style hackneyed and vapid. His workaholic lifestyle has also resulted in his having a strained relationship with his son, Percy (played by Emjay Anthony), and his ex-wife Inez (played by Sofa Vergara). As he works to simultaneously reinvent his career and mend his relationship with his family, he brings his conflicts to their logical conclusions: opening a Cuban food truck and touring the country with his son. The premise of the film may seem frivolous, but it’s a fun movie as long as you’re willing to suspend at least a little disbelief.
With such notable directorial efforts as “Elf,” “Iron Man” and “Cowboys & Aliens” under his belt, Favreau took a rather different route with his 2014 film. “Chef” is Favreau’s attempt to return “back to basics,” to create a film that centers more on a compelling story than on blockbuster gimmicks (there is, however, a significant number of celebrity cameos which includes the likes of Oliver Platt, Russell Peters, Bobby Cannavale, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman and Robert Downey, Jr.).
As the film’s screenwriter, Favreau combines relevant social satire with the dry wit of “Bob’s Burgers.” The mere interactions between characters are entertaining enough to carry the film’s plot. His interesting use of Twitter as a visual motif sheds light on the ubiquity of social media in our society’s collective conscience. Ultimately, the film’s commentary on technology and the millennial generation becomes more important than anything else. Favreau doesn’t necessarily demonize social media; he acknowledges both its superficiality and potential.
The glaring issue with the film’s plot, however, is its apparent lack of conflict. Sure, the movie’s first half features an intense confrontation between Carl and the food critic, but like a viral video, that conflict slips to the wayside and is quickly forgotten. After that pivotal confrontation, the movie essentially dissolves into a Travel Channel feature on Miami, Austin and New Orleans. The acquisition of a food truck somehow ties up all loose ends in the whole estranged-family debacle and (spoiler alert) the film closes with the ultimate fairy tale happy ending, complete with a wedding and an open “I’ve secretly liked you the whole time” apology from the film’s antagonist. The ending may be nauseating, but the movie is still an entertaining watch.
While “Chef” has its fair share of high and low points, the film is a lighthearted detour from all those mindless blockbusters flooding movie theaters these days. Aside from displaying the intricacies of the culinary world, the film also presents an important commentary on millennial culture. Feel free to look up “Chef” if you’re looking for something to do after Sunday brunch.