Which should be subtitled: Or: 115 minutes of unrelenting food porn; if you don’t leave the theater prepared to murder a hobo if it will only get you a cubano, you are either the most self-controlled vegan who has ever lived or dead.
So that is the first thing you need to know about Chef. It’s a nearly two hour ode to food. But it’s so much more than that. Considering that most mainstream movies these days are still very much about being dark or edgy in some way, where there’s angst and tragic pasts and manpain everywhere, movies that very conspicuously avoid those things really stand out to me. Because you can look at the characters in them and think yeah, I know someone like that. Or yeah, that’s me. The characters feel so much more rich for it, full of an ordinary kind of life that makes them feel infinitely more real than the overemphasized caricatures with which we basically get inundated. Characters grow and change and learn lessons and no one has to have a melodramatic run through the rain or throws dishes on the floor or flees in slow motion from an explosion.
The plot itself is something you could imagine happening in real life–chef loses his job (okay, the melodramatic blow-up at the food critic is perhaps a bit over the top, but hilarious) and decides to start a food truck. Picks the truck up in Miami and drives it back to California with his son and his line cook. And on the way, it becomes a love letter to the landscape, food, and music of the Gulf Coast states.
It’s a movie with a lot to say about creativity–both the kind specifically involved in cooking and the arts in general–and criticism, and how art is supposed to touch peoples’ lives in a very personal way, and does so without ever getting into navel-gazing territory. It has a lot to say about relationships, about being happy and fulfilled, heck, even about social media. (Though regarding relationships, the only bit in the movie I didn’t like was the last three minutes, but that was for very personal reasons.)
But I think what I loved the most was how real it all felt in comparison to the movies I’m used to seeing. Like I said, you could look at any one of those characters and believe they were a real person that you could run in to around the corner. Beyond that, I loved the fact that it had an R-rating, and the only reason for that was because the word fuck was used so often–because you can’t have a believable kitchen without the f-word. I loved that there was so much Spanish in the movie, and none of it subtitled, in the kitchens, used by Chef Carl’s ex-wife Inez, used by his line cook Martin. That’s not something that happens often in mainstream film either. And I loved that there was no “darkest hour before dawn” moment, that a guy and his ex-wife managed to have a great friendship, that there was an amazing scene where the kid just got to sit there and look mortified that Carl and Martin were singing along to this song while driving down the highway:
Movies like this remind you that life has its own tiny dramas, but at the end of the day it’s a journey and you just get on with living it–and there is nothing boring about that. Life is rich and amazing and full of laughter and beauty and love.
This movie is fucking awesome. You come out of it just feeling good about being alive. You should go see it. Plan to get a cubano after.