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Chef (2014)
Starting from scratch never tasted so good.
Filmmaker(s): Jon Favreau

When Chef Carl Casper suddenly quits his job at a prominent Los Angeles restaurant after refusing to compromise his creative integrity for its controlling owner, he is left to figure out what's next. Finding himself in Miami, he teams up with his ex-wife, his friend and his son to launch a food truck. Taking to the road, Chef Carl goes back to his roots to reignite his passion for the kitchen -- and zest for life and love.

Chef (2014)

Street Audiences

I watched this with the presumably self referential Nic Cage movie. I found that film far less self-referential than advertised, and this far more so.

Favreau denies the connection that I am making here, but it hardly matters whether he intended the connection or not. It could simply be that he does not want to offend the Marvel folks, who he continues to work with.

His career arc had him making successful small films. Then he was given ‘Iron Man’ by the failing Marvel Studios. He fought to hire risky Downey Jr. and imposed an energy that has since characterised most of the films. ‘Iron Man’ was a success. It saved the studio which was promptly bought by Disney in a complex deal that in retrospect was over ten billion to Favreau’s investors, and growing.

Then he was asked to do ‘Iron Man 2’ which was painful for him, because now he had many chefs in the room, insisting that the original be replicated but with scant understanding of what made it sing. Favreau continued to be executive producer for Marvel but refused to be the guy in the creative seat. He’d been a frustrated target of powerful helpers.

He went elsewhere and made ‘Cowboys and Aliens’ with the biggest budget and stars then available. It failed, and he believed it was because the people with the money were not allowing all the quirky things that give a small film engaging character.

So he goes back to his roots and makes a simple film the way he wants. And guess what? The plot is that he is a chef who was celebrated when he was young. He now works in a restaurant that features his old menu, but it lacks the vitality he once showed. The owner of the place refuses to allow deviation from the formula.

He quits and ‘goes independent’, reconnecting with his groove by focusing on the basics and taking it directly to the public. Becomes a success. An influential early supporter had become a recent critic, but is turned around by the chef’s return to roots and literally becomes a backer behind a new, presumably more ‘true’ restaurant.

Favreau would go on to salvage the dead investment Disney made in the Star Wars world by guiding ‘The Mandalorian’, completely his creation. For this viewer, it is easy to see the value he brings to that project, indicated here. It will be your guess whether this movie is a way for him to introspectively practice those values while demonstrating them to funders, or just as a palate cleanser.

Some side themes are important. Why move from posh food to Cuban, as opposed to any other choice? My guess is that it would be easier for us to read as special. Then he gets to fill in the Latin romance, and build a road movie from Florida to LA.

All important to this story are the exposures on social media, and how he ‘learns’ how to use it. Migrating from big screen blockbusters to more intimate TV is in the same realm, though I do not think Disney/Lucasfilm exercised social media in any more intense or unique way than usual.

Posted in 2022

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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