Favreau has given us a film that rediscovers one's passions in life. Carl's zest for culinary zeal has transpired despite the simplicity of his dishes. Not only does he get to do what he really wants, he also embarks on a journey with reconnecting with his family. Carl and his wife have stayed good friends, and even he has a weird situation with his ex-wife's ex-husband. Most importantly, he gets to reconnect with his son, giving the film an extra boost of character.
The characters were perfectly cast. Jon Favreau has given a good performance as Carl, his demeanor suited for the character. He doesn't seem to play a lead character much often now, and has resorted his talents off-screen, but he portrayed Carl very well. His character was a little awkward at start, but when he goes back to his culinary roots, everything just starts to work out for him. I also liked Sofia Vergara's performance - it's nice to see her outside of her Modern Family persona. We barely get to see Scarlett Johansson, Bobby Cannavale and Robert Downey Jr. onscreen, but even they gave good performances, Johanssen most especially from the trio. There are also brief appearances by Dustin Hoffman, who really played that stubborn restaurant owner very well, and Oliver Platt, who could have used a bit more smugness and intimidation, something I think he could have easily pulled off. Martin, who basically quit his job and followed Carl, played by John Leguizamo was also a great addition to the film. His character had good chemistry with Favreau's, making their friendship spark. Percy, played by Emjay Anthony, was definitely the glue that gave the film its extra punch.
Chef started off in a good tone, and held up very well...until the final act happened. Everything else went smoothly, but the final minutes seemed very rushed just to wrap things up. I think they could have gone with an alternative ending - something similar, but with a more realistic touch. A part of the ending just really came out of nowhere and basically fractured the demeanor of the film. Nonetheless, a hasty end doesn't tarnish the film as the whole.
The film was lovely because it had a lot of heart. The story itself was filled with it; after all, it exemplified passion in life and in other fields. The cast was amazing, and brought life to the characters and the story. I may not be familiar with much of Jon Favreau's work as an actor (my introduction to the actor was actually his stint in the show Friends), but in terms of directing, this one is definitely for the books.
Final Word: A film with a lot of heart, this easily climbed to one of the top films I've seen this year.
Cast: Jon Favreau, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson
Director: Jon Favreau