Dir: Jon Favreau
His ex-wife is Sophia Vergara… his girlfriend is Scarlett Johansson… I really need to learn to cook!
Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) is stuck in a creative rut, cooking the same popular menu he has been for years, he longs to try some new recipes but his employer (Dustin Hoffman) is content with the current dishes. After the menu leaves a renowned food critic (Oliver Platt) unimpressed and his scathing review spreads online, Casper gets into a heated social media argument, and loses his job. His ex-wife (Sophia Vergara) suggests Carl just gets a food truck, and with a vehicle from her other ex-husband (Robert Downey Jr.), he sets off on a road trip around America cooking the food he loves with friend Martin (John Leguiziamo) and Carl’s tech-savvy and enthusiastic son Percy (Emjay Anthony).
The story is quite clearly somewhat allegorical, and it has been widely commented on how it mirrors Favreau’s film career, sometimes making the big blockbusters that are poorly received by critics but aimed simply at bringing in the money from audiences. Favreau has directed such excellent films such as Elf and Iron Man, but then also made others that were poorly received such as Cowboys and Aliens, and of course Iron Man 2. Interestingly, his film almost appears to be an Indie film, but as often goes with being a big name director, it’s stuffed (like a chicken… or a roasted pepper for veggies) full of huge and bankable stars.
As well as directing, Jon Favreau is leading this from the front as the main character, and I must say it thankfully feels like a piece of fitting casting rather than a vanity move. Key to the film working is his ability to portray the character well in both the personal side of the story and the professional aspects of being a top chef. To me, his chefing skills look incredibly authentic, it would undermine the film completely if they were lacking, but I completely believed in him as being a skilled chef. Plus the finished food all looks delicious, it’s like watching a feature-length Marks & Spencer food advert, often described as ‘food porn’.
I enjoyed how the film also comments on some of the pros and cons of social networking. Firstly it’s shown as the means of Casper’s fall from grace, opening his work up to widespread criticism and going viral, but then on the flip side his son Percy makes clever use of many social networks and features to help promote the food van. Talking of Percy, Emjay Anthony who plays him is really excellent, much better than many child actors I’ve seen in some recent films. In fact, the whole cast really is very good, a nice mix of recognisable stars in varying sized parts but all feel well suited for their roles, especially Dustin Hoffman as a restaurateur who is mostly interested in profits, and Robert Downey Jr. whose character is so instantly memorable.
I must also mention that the film features some great music, as the film becomes a road trip and they tour the different states cooking as they go, the music changes with them, and this provides a lively soundtrack. It’s only a seemingly small aspect, but adds to the feel-good tone of the film and helps to really make it exactly that, a very enjoyable film, that if it wasn’t for the strong language, would probably be a great movie to enjoy as a whole family.
‘The Babadook’ is a film you shouldn’t watch alone, this is definitely one that you shouldn’t watch hungry! Filled with tasty food, tastier ladies, some well seasoned performances and an appetising story, it’s metaphorically as close to a well-balanced meal as you’re likely to get!