ByJack Giroux, writer at
Jack Giroux

had a terrific start as a filmmaker. With Elf, Zathura, and Iron Man, all following his debut film, Made, he proved he could balance art and commerce. There is a sense of joy to those popcorn movies seriously lacking in most major releases, including two of Favreau's own films: Iron Man 2 and Cowboys & Aliens. They were underwhelming missteps, hinting at potential they never fully reached. Both movies didn't completely gel with fans, but Favreau's new movie, Chef, should do the trick.

Favreau himself plays Carl Casper, a once great Chef who's now more of a gun for hire. He's grown dissatisfied by the system, forced to make safe choices as a chef, to appease the money men. His passion is gone. With that conflict, you can't help but shake the idea Chef is saying everything Favreau believes about the creative process. He must relate to Casper on some level, when it comes to trying to be creative in a system that demands comfort food. It's no coincidence Favreau is saying all this after Iron Man 2 and Cowboys & Aliens, two movies seriously lacking a singular voice.

That doesn't mean this is Favreau's big middle finger to the studio system. plays the restaurant owner who repeatedly points out he's the one paying for everything. Favreau doesn't vilify his stance, but illustrates that interference generally doesn't produce the most satisfying results from the artist. When Casper has hardly any tools or money at his disposal, that's when he produces the best product. Favreau may feel the same way about himself as a filmmaker.

Favreau does show the conflict between art and commerce, but really, it's secondary to the father-son story at the heart of Chef. While trying to return to his glory days as a chef, Casper also has to focus on his personal life. He hasn't been the best father or husband, but his professional downfall serves as a wakeup call.

Casper's arc and the film wears its heart on its sleeve. It puts everything out there, like its protagonist. Not a single emotion rings false. What the film says about creativity and fatherhood is honest. It's clear Favreau believes that good-natured, hardworking people can succeed at the end of the day, especially if they manage to understand their own shortcomings. Chef is nothing but genuine.

While there is a good deal of drama, that doesn't mean the joy from Favreau's past films is missing. Chef is consistently funny, thanks to a charming performance from Favreau and his stellar supporting cast. and one cameo are undoubtably the MVPs. They both earn big laughs in a short span of time.

Chef's third act is less lean compared to the rest of the film. The road trip Casper and his son go on feels longer than it is. Despite a few desired trims, Favreau's film is a smooth, funny, and friendly character-driven drama. This is a great comeback for the Iron Man director, proving his best days are not far behind him.


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