The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Like a leftover piece of French fries

with 13 comments

John Leguizamo, Emjay Anthony and Jon Favreau in ChefSome movies get better a few days after you’ve watched them. Like a Boeuf Bourguignon casserole they need to be left alone for a day, some extra time to mature and get all the flavours together.

Other movies are the opposite. Right after you’ve seen them you think: “well, that was pretty nice, wasn’t it”, but a few hours later they’ve lost all their texture and become rather appalling. Like leftover French fries that have grown cold, soft and pointless.

Chef is an example of the French fries type of movie. I left the theatre half and half smiling and a little hungry after two hours of food porn with some acting on the side (it probably helped that I never watch food shows on television, so I haven’t been overexposed to that kind of images).

But as time passes I feel colder and colder about it, so I’d better hurry up now and get my thoughts on print before I turn completely sour and grumpy. It’s not fair to try to judge something as a BB when it so apparently is a FF.

So this is a story about a chef with high ambitions who gets a nasty but well-deserved bad review from a Very Important Critic. He makes a fool out of himself on social media about it, quits his job and goes back to the basics, whilst spending time with his son and getting everything he’s lost back including his wife, self-esteem and the love from the masses. I don’t need to tell you that he’ll confront the critic again with a different result, do I? Mind you, this is not a spoiler. There’s no way you can spoil a movie where it’s so obvious where it’s heading five minutes into it.

I’m starting to feel a bit like that grumpy critic now, so I’d better talk about what’s good.

  • I liked the kitchen scenes. There’s something relaxing, hypnotizing about seeing that dance between the chefs, sous-chefs and other staff in the kitchen. Jon Favreau has the right swing in the way he moves and handles himself. I don’t know if this is what it looks like in real life, but they managed to sell it to me and that’s all I need.
  • I liked the connection between the chef and his son. Theres a LOT of sugar in it, for sure, but there are nice little scenes there which reminds you of how sad it is that most of us who have children have boring office jobs that are incomprehensible and impossible to bring your kids to, which is a shame.
  • I think that someone who’s never come across social media before could benefit from it as a crash course in how to use and how not-to-use Twitter, Vine and one-second-a-day-filming.
  • And again: there are some pretty shots of food, presented with a nice score that for a brief moment can make you feel a little happy.

But then there’s the bad:

It’s predictable, it’s cheesy and it contains way too much sugar and way too little salt. This is an entirely unbalanced dish. For crying out loud, aside from the initial clash with the critic and the owner of the restaurant, there’s no conflict in the move, there are no stakes whatsoever. The last hour we just watch Jon Favreau, his best buddy and his son on a triumph tour around America, most likely sponsored by various local tourist boards from the spots where they stop, with occasional phone calls to assure mum that they’re having a great time. Sigh. And the women in the movie are mostly there for decoration or comfort whenever needed. If you want a movie that promotes “traditional family values”, well here’s you are.

Ratatouille. That’s basically all I want to say. It’s not exactly the same story, but it’s in the neighbourhood. And it did it so much better. It’s about time that I rewatch Ratatouille. And this one I’ll forget as quickly as possible, like a piece of French fries from yesterday. Rubbish food is rubbish. Even if it can make you smile for a brief moment.

Chef (Jon Favreau, US 2014) My rating: 2,5/5

Written by Jessica

September 9, 2014 at 1:00 am

Posted in Chef

13 Responses

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  1. It’s about time that I rewatch Ratatouille.

    It’s always about time to rewatch Ratatouille! It’s almost certainly my favourite of the Pixar output.


    September 9, 2014 at 1:08 am

  2. Whoa. A bit harsh, but fair. I enjoyed but yes, it’s almost too fluffy and is indeed forgettable.


    September 9, 2014 at 2:51 am

    • Hehe. I barely knew I had it in me to be harsh. I’m usually very cuddly about just about everything. But every once in a while you need to go the other way.


      September 9, 2014 at 7:40 am

  3. This one has been on the outskirts of my radar. I’ve heard quite a few high praises of the movie, though I do believe most of them were fairly fresh after seeing the movie so they may have still been on the fast food high before the crash a few days later. I do dislike predictability, but at the same time I do love watching food shows so I may still get a kick out of this one if I ever decide to pop it on. I heard that he did train with some expert chefs in order to do his own “stunts” so to speak in the kitchen and to help make it feel more authentic, so it has that going for it at least.


    September 9, 2014 at 6:22 am

    • I think it can serve well as an instant sugerrush if you’re in need of that. But you know what you’re up to. After that kind of highs you’re likely to get a dip.


      September 9, 2014 at 7:41 am

  4. Since you only watch some movies once to me it is all about that first feeling they give you. There are tons of movies which might not be great classic movies, but if they succeed in making me feel good I’ll rate them for that. You name some fair points though


    September 9, 2014 at 7:17 am

    • I know what you mean. There are some movies that are fun for the moment and then you forget about them and that’s it. Blockbuster entertainment style. Nothing bad about that. It was odd with this one though what a bad aftertaste it gave me. That I was fairly positive about it first and that it then grew sour in my memory.


      September 9, 2014 at 7:43 am

  5. I understand what you’re saying, and feel weird to say this, but I actually liked the lack of any major conflict. For once, there wasn’t a big third-act change that put everything in jeopardy. It may be predictable, but there’s a lot of heart behind it. This isn’t a studio film that follows a pattern and is designed to draw huge crowds. It’s clear that Favreau is exorcising some demons here. His points about criticism are obvious, yet I still found myself enjoying the relaxed feeling to the entire movie.

    Dan Heaton

    September 9, 2014 at 7:03 pm

    • I hear what you’re saying and yes, I guess I could sense there’s a heart there too. That’s probably a contributing reason to why my immediate reaction was that it wasn’t too shabby, that I even smiled. But in the end it didn’t last the test of time for me. I glad that it did for you though. 🙂


      September 9, 2014 at 7:19 pm

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