Film Review: Chef

You may have noticed recently that the number of films I have seen and therefore, the number of reviews I have written have been reducing. While my love of films and all things cinematic is as strong as ever, I think it’s just that natural, seasonal switch as the sun comes out and the weather stays fine that now, the thought of spending a few hours, or a late night, stuck inside isolated from the world doesn’t seem quite as appealing. There are, however, a handful of films that are cropping up over the next few weeks that have grabbed my attention and so the odd trip to the movies is in the planning.

One of the films to raise more than a passing glance was Chef. John Favreau’s return to the director’s chair after the first two Iron Man films and the strange but actually surprisingly daft and fun Cowboys & Aliens. The trailer for Chef had interested me but grabbed my mother, and she was more the driving force behind going to see it. She was really keen and I don’t turn up the chance to go to the cinema, so off we went to a rather empty afternoon showing.

Now, the trailer had left me not anticipating much about the film. It hadn’t “wowed” me, but rather, had left me with a sense of it’s likely to be one of those films which seems and sounds like a good idea, but ultimately, falls flat, falls into the stereotypes and becomes just another paint by numbers movie that is here today gone tomorrow. And when the reviews started arriving from the critics essentially saying that it’s a middle of the road movie, that it’s more a case of existing only because somebody can rather than somebody should, my slight concerns were both raised and affirmed that while I wasn’t in for a shockingly awful time, ground breaking comedy was not on the horizon either.

What I really wasn’t expecting though was the film I got. People have been throwing around sound bites about how this movie is “food porn” and that you “shouldn’t see this film on an empty stomach”. Well as recovering anorexic who knows a bit or two about being hungry and staring at images at food I can tell you these throw away lines are complete and utter rubbish. This movie is as much about food as Jaws is about a shark. It’s purely a case that the idea onto which they’ve tacked the plot is that of a professional chef – this decade’s current fashionable celebrity career. You could replace him with anybody who would potentially go on a road trip, and you’d have the same film.

And that’s the problem. This film just doesn’t know what it is, apart that is as an advert for twitter. It’s not really a film about food, or cooking, or life, or the relationship between a father and a son, or a real road trip movie, it’s just a white wash of everything, never really grabbing any one thing with enough time and detail to let you sink into it and enjoy the stories that are so obviously trying, and wanting, to get out. It feels more like bunch of holiday snaps where every shot needs explaining and the evening is finished with the line “well I guess you had to be there…”.

Chef - Review 01

And somehow, it manages to take all this glossing of ideas and superficial development of plot, characters and anything that could be remotely interesting and slow cook it to death. Which is even more remarkable because it’s not a long movie, it’s under 2 hours, but it’s so monotonous and one paced, never getting out of first gear and never even looking like it’s trying to, that you just become more and more detached and bored as it slowly walks its course.

On reflection I do wonder though, whether, I have totally misjudged this film, because as I and everybody, have said this film is arguably one big advert for twitter. Part of me thinks that all the ideas I mentioned: the road trip, the paternal relationship, the food are actually meant as nothing more than filler, the vegetable side dishes if you will, and whether this film is actually in fact a commentary on the American dream and how, in the social media world we live in that dream is now born and created more through a mobile phone and public image than basic, honest hard graft. I don’t know.

I am sure that I’m being a little too harsh on the film as a whole though, because honestly, it’s not a bad movie. There are far, far worse films, it’s problem though is that it’s just not a good film. It’s in that no man’s land of absolute nothingness. It’s bland and the type of film that you feel is only in existence as a side project to pass the time. Everything about it just seems to miss the mark, but by such a small margin you accept it and forgive it. “Better luck next time old chap” and all that. Yet, I don’t want to just willingly accept that attitude. I want to shout at it and tell it it’s not good enough, because it shouldn’t be this way. There are so many elements and layers to this film that if more time was spent on them, if they picked one or two and spent longer really developing them, could have lead to a warm, upliftingly fun film, set around the currently fashionable world of cooking.

If this movie was the story of a father and son connecting through a cross America road trip set to the backdrop of the chef and his “food truck” with a real cinematic look at the people, music and food of the places they stop then I wouldn’t be about to tell you not to waste your money going to see it because honestly, you’ll have more fun sitting at home tweeting pictures of the food you’re eating instead.

5 out of 10 stars (5 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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