Saturday, May 17, 2014

"Chef": food, and a battle between a blogger and people engaged in "real life"

Chef” may be great comedy and offer visuals of “food porn”, but it has a lot to say about how people accomplish things in life, both by doing things themselves or writing about others who do, from a distance.

Jon Favreau stars in his own film, playing the master chef Carl Casper, divorced but with a devoted 10-year old son Percy (Emjay Anthony).  For years he has been bringing in customers to a Venice CA restaurant (although the outdoor scenes looked like Sherman Oaks, and the place itself resembled a big bar-restaurant that I ate at in West Hollywood just off of Santa Monica in 2012; imdb says that some shooting was done in Venice).  He wants to experience creative artistry in his cooking, perhaps serving the fictitious fare from Clive Barker’s Imajica (please not the roe, inside the fish within a fish, in the Third Dominion!)  The owner, Dustin Hoffman, wants to keep the fare the same because it is good business.  But a food blogger, made very prominent by the Huffington Post, gives him a snarky review, partly because of a chocolate lava cake that really is supposed to be mushy in the middle.  Casper is not Internet-savvy, but his little son brings him up to speed on Twitter very quickly. Casper sends a nasty tweet back to the blogger (John Leguizamo), thinking it is private, but it goes viral.  Soon there is a nasty confrontation in the restaurant, and the chef loses his job.  He has to go on all heart.  Overweight with forearms covered with tattoos, he doesn’t fit the older social stereotypes of commanding appearance, bit in this film that won’t matter.

The second half of the movie becomes a wonderful road trip. Carl and his son go to Miami Beach, and get an old friend to give him a food truck.  Carl teaches his son to clean and set up the truck, and soon the food truck is open on South Beach serving “Cubano” food, and becomes a big hit.  The truck goes on the road, to Orlando, New Orleans, Austin TX, and back to Los Angeles.   At this point, it’s welt to comment on the photography in this very professional film: it teases the eye with all kinds of exotic French and Hispanic dishes with raw sea food, and then opens up and shows us stunning Cinerama-like shots of the major locations it visits., including the Lousiana bayous along I-10, and Big Bend (TX) mountains.  (Some of the food shots resemble those on the blog of NYC classical musician Timo Andres, who often writes about cooking, too.)  See this film in a large theater with a full wide screen. I saw it in the AMC Shirlington in Arlington, which presented it in one of the larger auditoriums with a curved wide screen.  That works well here.

I don’t like to play spoiler, but the ending is important.  The blogger shows up at the truck, first refused service.  But then we learn he has sold his blog for millions (I couldn’t do that with mine) and wants to put money into a new company with Carl’s Food Trucks all over the country, probably as a  branded franchise.  He says the SEC wouldn’t let him do that if he continued to blog about food.  That’s a very interesting point.

Official site (Open Road) is here

Will I take a photo of my next meal before consuming it? 

Pictures: my own, from Everglades, Fremch Quarter, West Hollywood, Austin. 

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