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Saturday, 5 July 2014

Dish of the Day

Jon Favreau's film Chef is a simple joy - confirming that less is usually more effective and that it is okay to make a film that leaves the audience smiling, laughing and tapping its feet. However, arguably, Chef is deeper than first glance suggests. It touches on very modern themes of the power of social media (constructive and destructive) and the impact that glib online criticism (positive and negative) can have on real lives, and it's to Favreau's great credit that he does not gloss over these things. The film's use of Tw***er is ingenious and effective, if somewhat similar to at least one previous treatment of texting (the BBC's extraordinary Sherlock), but it is not a throw-away gimmick, rather an important part of the story, showing that - like a loaded gun - social media's power derives from the will of the user.

Chef has a highly likeable cast in great form. Dustin Hoffman, Scarlett Johansson and Fav's Iron Man mucker Robert Downey Jr. provide very effective cameos. RDJ is his quirky self, and Johansson is at her most charming, while Hoffman's superbly forceful turn ensures that it's not all sweetness and light, as do chef's scenes with Oliver Platt's restaurant critic. Sofia Vergara, Bobby Cannavale and the excellent John Leguizamo provide enthusiastic and likeable support, but it is Favreau and Emjay Anthony's delightful central relationship that is the beating heart of the film, their scenes are so wonderfully natural that you can only root for them both.

The film features something of a flying foodie travelogue through the southern states, but it is much more than that. Favreau's direction feels light and empathetic, a man confident in knowing exactly what he wanted, and Chef is clearly a film made with great care and affection. The soundtrack is superb, infusing the film with a rhythm that makes it difficult not to be swept along, but why would anyone not want to be carried away by Favreau's wonderful film, which tells us it is okay to take pleasure in what we do, feel the rhythm and love life.

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