Writer/director/star Jon Favreau is an underrated filmmaker. In Chef, he shows artistic prowess when filming food, either its preparation or consumption.
His comedic timing is equally impeccable; consider Chef Carl Caspar’s (Favreau) explosion at Ramsey Michael (Oliver Platt) or Martin (John Lequizamo) finding non-culinary use for cornmeal.
Another success for Favreau: emotional acuity. Carl and his son’s (Emjay Anthony, a talent to watch) relationship is, at times, uplifting and heartbreaking.
Therein is why Chef’s unsurprising plot never limits its effectiveness. Carl and Percy are developed with enough complexity that the plot-line barely matters.
An actual flaw: the screenplay’s treatment of important female characters. Neither Molly (Scarlett Johansson) nor Inez (Sofia Vergara) have much personality independent of Carl, which means we puzzle at their attraction to the chef.
Especially Inez’s. Given that she clearly still likes (maybe even loves) her ex-husband, and that he seems to feel the same for her, why did they divorce in the first place?
In that regard, Chef demonstrates the dangers of too-little exposition.
While significant, such flaws are overshadowed by Chef’s merits.
The actors, especially Favreau, Platt, Vergara, Anthony and Lequizamo, are outstanding.
Cameos are adeptly played for humor.
Carl’s fall and eventual redemption are equally emotional.
The soundtrack is great.
And so forth. I recommend this film without reservation. (Sidebar to Favreau: thank you, sir, for trying so hard, sincerely.)