This week I watched a movie about a father, once lost in his work, reconnecting with his son. I also watched a movie about the power of social media and its ability to reach the masses and turn the tide of his business. Also there was a movie about the art of cooking and a team of people with a gift and a passion for creating new and interesting dishes for their clientele.
All three of these movies were the same one: Chef.
Happy Hogan and Natasha Romanov apparently quit Stark Industries and entered the restaurant business. Jon Favreau plays Carl Casper, a chef who loses his swanky restaurant job and opens a food truck. This feel good movie has surprisingly little real conflict or surprises but a cast of strong and charismatic actors keep it fun to watch. Kudos to the film for filming food just as well as any Food Network show. I have no culinary skills nor interest in acquiring any, but Chef still makes me understand the passion one could have for it. It also manages to impart emotion to preparing food. Cooking is used to express joy, anger, and seduction.
Along with the theme of Casper’s passion for cooking is him bonding with his young son while on a road trip in the new food truck. Here is where most of the movie’s heart lies. Favreau is likable and earnest during the journey as is his right hand man John Leguizamo. Even the young actor playing his son is good. This is also when it becomes clear that Twitter must have sponsored this movie. There are full scenes complete with visual effects devoted to discussing how Twitter works, why it’s a potentially powerful tool, and how it can quickly get public opinion on your side or turn it against you. I realize it may have been necessary to be sure even a layperson knows the basic functions of Twitter but it felt like I was being beat over the head with it at times.
The theme of the movie that captured me most was Casper rediscovering his passion. When the movie opens he’s in a rut, stifled by the monotony of cooking the same menu at the restaurant time and time again. In a moment of frustration he loses his job. For a brief time he’s lost, hopeless, but manages to turn things around. He takes this negative turn of events as a chance to shake up his life in a positive way. He changes his situation, his attitude, and ultimately comes out of it more fulfilled and better off than when he started. Dramatically speaking it’s a simple notion and Chef presents it in a very basic linear fashion. That said it’s a message worth telling. Life is not a movie and when faced with troubles that seem like they’re turning your entire world upside down simply keeping your head up can be the hardest thing to do. Casper is told at one point that his time at the restaurant was good, but it’s over, and that’s ok. It’s time for him to move on and do something else that will also be great. Sometimes we need to be reminded that just because we’ve always done something doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for us. Change is not inherently bad. Scary, maybe. But sometimes it’s comforting to see a story that reminds us change can lead us to a better place than where we started.
And every time Scarlett Johansson asked Jon Favreau if he was happy I giggled.
Other movies I watched this week (potential minor spoilers):
Victor Frankenstein – The movie tries to do for Frankenstein what Guy Ritchie did for Sherlock Holmes, this movie’s visuals are entertaining to the eye and the two leads are fun to watch. Everything else is a bit of a mess; all the other characters are plain and underdeveloped, the plot wanders needlessly at times, and wraps up very suddenly and far too neatly. Radcliffe and McAvoy are good but are dragged down by the movie around them. On the upside one scene features the draining of a grossly huge abscess. I know I have a couple of readers who’ll be into that.
Creed – I have no interest in boxing and no nostalgic love for the Rocky movies. That resulted in Creed being good but not great for me. Essentially a modern retelling of the first Rocky, this film follows all the well worn tropes of a sports movie to the letter including but not limited to Making A Name For Yourself, Trying To Win the Girl, and the Training Montage. If I were more of a fan of that genre I would have loved this movie because it employs those tropes expertly. Quality performances from Jordan and Stallone along with great camera work and editing left even me thrilled at the climactic bout. Special mention of a fight midway through the movie that is filmed as one long uninterrupted shot grounding the audience in the ebb and flow of the match.
Jackie Brown – Tarantino doing what he loves: channeling movie genres and styles he loved in his younger days into crime stories that typically result in a lot of dead people. Also, some part of it will be told out of chronological order. I didn’t care much for the characters he created in this outing which resulted in me not being terribly invested. This one is slower paced than average for his films and that just wasn’t to my taste. If you’re a fan of Tarantino’s work this is a fine example of it but it’s much less effective than Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs.
Hatchet – A gloriously fun throwback to slasher flicks of the 80s. At just over 80 minutes long this movie very quickly sets up the situation, our future body count, and gets right to the action. Kills are varied, imaginative, and brutal. Even if the prosthetics aren’t exactly convincing it’s great to see all practical effects and the fountains of blood and creativity make up for any shortcomings. Peppered with actors from Horror Movies Past this flick is a love letter to fans of the slasher genre and succeeds wonderfully.
Hatchet II – The makers listened to what the fans liked and doubled down on what worked. This sequel remains tight and kinetic without mucking things up by trying to be more than just a bloody good time. Everything that made the first one great applies to this one.
Hatchet III – Please see review of Hatchet II.