Saturday, 20 September 2014

Review: Chef

World of Blackout Film Review

Chef Poster

Cert: 15 / 112 mins / Dir. Jon Favreau
WoB Rating: 4/7

Firstly, here are the two new additions to the movie-goer's list of advice, rules and etiquette…
1) Don't go to the cinema straight from work without eating to watch a film which - even to a card-carrying non-foodie like me - contains some admittedly awesome looking sandwiches.

2) If you do have to go to the cinema straight from work without eating to watch a film which contains some admittedly awesome looking sandwiches, try not to sit directly behind the guy with the worst B.O. in living memory, who for some reason places his drink of the floor in the aisle rather than in the cupholder provided, so who spends the film continually reaching down to his side and wafting his essence in a five-foot radius.

Because watching the first one whilst smelling the second makes for a very unsettling two hours.

So, beneath the surface (and really not that far beneath) of Jon Favreau's quirky indie-adventure Chef is a heartfelt, if slightly petulant, swipe at movie critics and even at criticism itself. In fact, it wouldn't be entirely unfair to say that the film barely bothers with this artifice at all, since it deals so directly with the creative parallels between culinary and cinematographic expression, that it may as well just be about a stroppy movie director.

But y'know, if you were going to write, direct and star in a film where the hero throws his toys out of the pram after what in reality is an everyday occurrence, and is then basically adored and supported by all the other characters for the rest of the running time (including his original detractor, embarrassingly), would you really leave in all those ad-libbed exchanges with awkward pauses, not knowing when to cut to another scene, and with you and the stars of Iron Man 2 talking over each other? Because quite frankly, it seems that rather than scolding the critics, Chef just hands them more ammunition.

The annoying part is that the story about the disgruntled sandwich maker, Carl, bonding with his son Percy over the course of the Summer works really well, with Favreau and Emjay Anthony sharing a great chemistry. But that pan's left on the back burner and only stirred occasionally while the main course has no real progression. Carl quits his job to do something more stripped-down and real, then he goes and does it. That's it. There's no third-act obstacle or reveal, everything just goes smoothly and everyone tells him how great he is. Then Oliver Platt's critic, Ramsey Michel turns up to offer Carl a metaphorical hand-job, whereby Favreau's self-penned character shows he has the courage of his convictions by immediately going into business with him. The end.

But the absolute worst moment comes at the end of the film, where we see Jon Favreau smiling, teary-eyed, at a greatest-hits compilation montage of scenes from his own film which we're still watching. And if you think I'm being hard on it, you should read Michael Legge's summary, because while I didn't actively dislike Chef, I also can't disagree with a single word Michael's written, either.

Mr Favreau, if you want to send a snarky fuck-you to the people who've trashed your earlier work, please do it by simply making better films. And I say that as someone who loved Iron Man 2.

Despite its pretensions at both ends of the scale, this film isn't soul food; it's a quick sandwich grabbed from M&S on your way through town. If you thoroughly enjoyed Begin Again, Chef is aimed directly at you.

On the surface, the film features a gourmet chef trying to convince the world that there's spiritual value in fast food. And handily, that's also what the film is about, too.

Is the trailer representative of the film?
Almost exactly, yes.

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?
I smirked, but nowhere near enough.

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?
Almost exactly, yes.

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
I will a bit. Not much, but a bit.

Will I watch it again?

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
There is not.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

And my question for YOU is…
During the scenes set in Little Havana and South Beach in Miami, was I the only Scarface-obsessed viewer waiting for it all to kick the fuck off?

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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