[dropcap]J[/dropcap]on Favreau’s Chef is something of a unicorn: a very modern, non-sci-fi, small(ish) movie. That last bit takes the director-writer-producer-star back to the earliest days of his popular career, when his low-budget flicks Swingers and Made became cult favorites. The difference now: a few more resources at his disposal (some being more famous friends—Robert Downey Jr., Dustin Hoffman, Scarlett Johansson, Sofia Vergara, Bobby Cannavale, John Leguizamo, and Oliver Platt all take part, to delightful results); and its plot’s seamless use of (or even reliance on) social media.
From the start, we’re hand-tossed into the world of a chef. The film forces some early chef-sposition into its audience’s mouth, but it’s too quickly followed by beautiful imagery—both in the savory delights Favreau’s Chef Carl Casper prepares and in the auteur’s ease at using its various locales (Miami, New Orleans, Austin) for their own appetizing settings—for anyone to care.
After a career crisis in Los Angeles, Casper finds himself a fresh start in a food truck, manned by himself, his formerly ignored son, and Leguizamo’s hilarious Martin, bounding across the country from Miami—where he met his ex-wife (Vergara) and where his son was born—back to the story’s origin, Los Angeles.
But Casper’s journey isn’t just across the country. His storyline takes him all over the web: he’s poorly reviewed by a powerful food blogger, retaliates on twitter, is humiliated on YouTube, and is ultimately redeemed when his son takes charge of his (and his new food truck’s) social media presence—gobbling followers and fans through Facebook, Vine, and Twitter as his life, career, and father-son relationship pick up steam on their cross-country road trip.
Yet for all the transporting being done on-screen and in Casper’s career, the film’s best bits are when the characters are settling down for a drink and a laugh, of which there are plenty, managing to give the film a relaxing perspective—a motif matched by its breezy, smile-inducing soundtrack (including a featured live performance by the spectacular Gary Clark Jr.).
After impressive feats like Iron Man and Iron Man 2 (and to a less successful extent, Cowboys & Aliens), Favreau’s directorial return to the world of the everyman is every bit as satisfying a morsel as the various food-porn bursting with flavor off the screen.