By Joe-Michael Terry (West Hollywood, CA)
If you’ve seen the film Bad Words with Jason Bateman and you liked it, then this film will surely please. They both cover the same emotional ground (“father-son bonding”). Although in the first, they are dealing with a misanthropic father-figure, and in Chef they are dealing with a companionable, sensitive, well-disposed man.
Whether the backdrop is getting to a National spelling bee or a taking a traveling food truck cross-country, the final destination is actually the healing of a wounded man by his becoming vulnerable to the needs of a 10-year-old, sensitive adolescent. Both films are excellent, but if I only could see one I would choose Chef because the first 40 minutes of the film are near-perfect storytelling with incredible performances (by stars in cameo performances).
Of the two, I personally related to Jason Bateman’s charismatic but misanthropic orthographical Hun, whose only crime in life was to be born absent a father or a role model that would have “coursed” him in decency. Whereas with Chef, the only obstacle to overcome is for a successful, hard-working, patricentric procreator to wake up and smell the roses. This is a man that takes raw ingredients from nature and by application of his imagination and sheer willpower, he is able to create something extraordinary in the kitchen: he mixes, mashes, pounds, and prunes the earthy nutritional materials into various visually appealing culinary masterpieces (that make you want to leave the theater to dine).
It is no coincidence that you find yourself watching the film imagining the kind of masterpiece he will create of his son, if he would only apply that same raw imagination and talent to create something extraordinary (from disparate parts) on his erstwhile Progeny.
Symbolically, this film expresses that cooking can be done in the kitchen with a chicken or, in the real world with a child. All in all, you leave this film hungry, looking for New Orleans or Cuban gastronomy, and wishing you were ten years old again, and Jon Favreau were your proud parent, cooking for and with you.