'Chef' a satisfying time at the movies

Rating

3.5 Stars3.5/5

Liz Braun, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:05 PM ET

Family, freedom, food: In Chef, a culinary superstar in mid-life crisis figures out what's really important to him.

Jon Favreau wrote, directed and stars in Chef, a return to the indie world that's bound to please fans who have followed the filmmaker since 1996’s Swingers.

This is a small, smart, grown-up film about a man choosing between the safe but boring path and his own pent-up creative impulses; there isn't a false emotional note here. Favreau's work on the blockbuster side (Iron Man, Elf) means he can round up Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Bobby Cannavale, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Amy Sedaris and Russell Peters for his ensemble cast.

And kudos to young Emjay Anthony, who plays the son of Favreau's character and holds his own in every scene.

The movie stars Favreau as Chef Carl Casper, boss of the kitchen at a posh L.A. restaurant. Casper is divorced. He's obsessed with work, and that affects all his relationships — with his young son, with women, with his boss.

Welcome to the all-consuming restaurant world.

Growing disillusionment with the menu where he works and a war of words with a food critic (Oliver Platt) cause Carl to quit his job.

At loose ends, he goes with his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara) to Miami. At her urging, he decides to run a food truck and make Cuban sandwiches for a living. His right-hand-man at the restaurant (John Leguizamo) turns up to join Chef and work on the food truck.

What follows are cooking, travelling and pure joy, as our Chef finds his feet again, starts creating sandwiches, and winds up on a cross-country gustatory tour with his son and his buddy. They are driving the food truck to L.A. with stops along the way to sample the local cuisine, bond and build popularity for their sandwiches by word of mouth.

Chef is a homage to cooking and a love letter to food. It's also one man's attempt to get the story right — the film is imbued with Latino culture in the way of people, food and music; Favreau says this is an accurate reflection of the fact that Latino culture is the backbone of the entire culinary structure of the U.S.

Who knew?

With its easygoing pace, organic humour and delicious scenes of food prep and cooking, Chef is a pleasure to experience. You'll love what it doesn't have, too: no sitcom situations, no Hollywood hyperbole, no exaggerated domestic scenes or over-the-top emotion.

It's such a treat to see such an endearing slice o' life in the middle of this blockbuster season. There's not a single comic book character in sight.

Is that even allowed?

Twitter: @LizBraunSun

Liz.braun@sunmedia.ca


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