I didn’t care whether or not Chef had a pretty conventional and predictable plot. I wasn’t desperate for it to make me howl with laughter and tug at my heart strings. I was prepared to sit through two hours of mediocre characters who I wouldn’t warm to – I’d seen the trailer after all. All I wanted from this run-of-the-mill summer flick was some really seductive images of food. I wanted to dive into visions of culinary heaven whilst our characters fretted back and forth. I wanted Chef to ignite and unite my passions for both food and cinema in a delicious and satisfying way. There are moments of mouth-watering excellence here but not enough to satisfy the foodies amongst us. A film that revolves around the passion of cooking, ingredients and food should really have more scrumptious shots of truly luxurious grub. The chef in question, Carl, is suffocating in his profession. Controlled by his restaurant owner and boss, he struggles to be artistic. He is simultaneously failing to be a good father. His career dominates him personal life and the space between him and his son is growing apparent to all. When Carl finally makes the choice to venture to Miami and cook from the heart, and for himself, things start to look up. Predictably, bonds form and the past is mended. It’s only an hour into the film that the plot actually picks up speed. The entire first hour is all set-up. Chef talks down to its audience and fails to make us laugh or engage.
It’s not a terrible film. It’s nice enough. 30 minutes of the film’s opening hour could have been sliced away and the talents of Dustin Hoffman and Scarlett Johansson are wasted in tiny roles that don’t give them room to breathe. Chef isn’t a good film but that wasn’t a huge shock or disappointment. What saddens me about Chef is the potential it had to at least celebrate food and its artistic potential. Chef plods along and comes to a perfectly rounded ending that is far from believable and somewhat lazy. The film’s structuring is its greatest flaw. With a painfully drawn out first half and a rushed and glossed over ending, Chef suffers from poor organisation, poor pace and lack of direction. What could have been a delicious 90 minute venture into a balance of cookery and troubled relationships becomes a stretched and strained melodrama; lacking in drama but heavy on the mellow. Comedy is visible but there are no big laughs to be had. Chef will soon leave cinemas as quickly as it entered them. Like all those summer romances, we’ll be left with only a faint memory of this forgettable and somewhat empty story, sighing at what could have been.
Thanks for reading and let’s all keep supporting our beloved film industry.