September 7, 2014


Jon Favreau, 2014
Celebrity Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) has become jaded with the stale menu on his restaurant's menu. When restaurant owner Riva (Dustin Hoffman) refuses to let him change things up, he decides to leave and attempt to pursue his own interests which lead him to starting up a Cuban Food truck.

Favreau writes, directs and stars in this film which is a story of a guy taking a risk in a new business blended with some sentimental family elements. Carl is a very proud Chef who has grown insecure with his abilities, especially after getting ripped apart by online blogger Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt). His vulnerability breaks him, bringing him to his rock bottom after an explosive tirade that inevitably goes viral on social media. But Carl isn't a one-dimensional hot-head; there are many layers to him. He's still licking his wounds from the divorce of his beautiful (and out of his league) Cuban wife Inez (Sophia Vergara). He is having trouble bonding with his son Percy (Emjay Anthony), who is also hurt by the separation. He is basically broke, or close to it, living in a run-down apartment that is probably worth less than the high-end cooking equipment that he uses on a regular basis.

With these elements in play, there are a lot of directions the film could go in where it could fall apart. But it doesn't, and credit is due to Favreau for holding it together. With compelling performances, good direction and snappy editing, he manages to create a heartwarming piece that keeps you rooting for Carl to become a beloved culinary all-star once again. The film examines social media's impact on American culture through the blogosphere, at times using visual elements like pretty tweets flying across the screen (similar to the texting effects used in House of Cards). Not to say there aren't a few faults. When Carl storms out of his restaurant after Riva tells him he needs to cook whats on the menu and nothing else, he returns to his apartment where he goes off on a cooking spree. He puts together a lavish array of seemingly delicious and artful items. He cooks his heart out. You think: okay, he's going to tell that blogger to get his ass down to his apartment and force feed him. But he doesn't, and he appears to only cook the meal for himself. Of course if Ramsey came to the apartment and ate up, he would likely be put Carl in high regard again and movie over... but it was a weird how it played out. Favreau probably wanted the audience to really get on board with Carl's abilities to cook great food, but they were pretty evident already. Like, we knew that after the first scene. Or when he spent all of that time perfecting the grilled cheese sandwich for Percy. Later in the film Martin (played by perfectly-cast John Leguizamo) is pushed into taking a photo of Carl and a South Beach bike-cop. Martin shows you that he is the only person in America that has never used a touch-screen phone before, and is puzzled as to how to snap the picture. Those things are easy to let go, though. The good easily outweighs the bad. Favreau's culinary piece is charming, original, enjoyable. It seems like it was probably a fun film to make. Everyone must have left the set everyday with a full belly.

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