Munich — Filmfest München Film Review by Ken Macbeth Knowles
How  do you deal with a bad restaurant review that lands your career in the toilet? Well, if you are master chef Carl Casper, you break out the industrial cleaner and start over in a food truck. Jon Favreau, who has been making films for nearly two decades, is probably best known recently as the director of the first two Iron Man films. Luckily, he has decided to go small in his film “Chef” that returns to his indie roots.

Jon Favreau with newcomer Emjay Anthony -- munichFOTO
Jon Favreau with newcomer Emjay Anthony — munichFOTO

Taken along on his cross-country culinary odyssey, we watch the classic story of the unhappy man who loses nearly everything and must reevaluate all that he holds dear. Favreau’s Chef Carl Casper has a great gig running a kitchen in Brentwood, where he is constantly undermined by the restaurant’s owner (played by Dustin Hoffman.) When famous food blogger Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt) shows up to review the menu, Carl has to decide between playing it safe and pleasing his boss or showing off for the expert and feeding his own long-dormant creativity.

While this could have been played for melodrama with a lesser director, the chef’s decision is shown with an impressive level of subtlety. His grill chef, played by John Leguizamo, and the restaurant’s hostess, played by Scarlett Johansson, watch on in astonishment as the cook they admire gives in and ends up failing miserably.

There is a subplot that shows the danger of wading into social media without fully understanding it when Carl finds himself in a flame war with the food blogger that started the whole calamity. Anyone who knows Favreau from his 2002 television show Dinner for Five on the IFC Network will not be surprised that he has made a film revolving around cooking.

The star-studded cast includes Sofia Vergara, Bobby Cannavale, Amy Sedaris and introduces the young Emjay Anthony as Carl’s son. One of the funniest moments of the film takes place when Carl meets his ex-wife’s ex-husband, played by Robert Downey, Jr. Again, the comedy is deftly played, and his years of improv comedy show in Favreau’s ability to riff with the many talented members of his cast.

There are still two opportunities to view this film at FFM this week. It will be shown on Wednesday, 2 July at 8 PM and on Thursday 3 July at 10:30 PM, both showings are at City 1 cinema

The Filmfest München website is in both English and German.