Just saw the movie “Chef” with fabulous Production designer Denise Pizzini. Sure, I might be a little biased. But when a movie I work on ain’t so great, I’m not going to say it’s fab.
In this case, it’s not necessary for me to keep my mouth shut. Because Chef is fantastic. Even better than I expected.
This is one of those “little” movies that is genuine and hilarious and touching, and even more uncommonly, every aspect of the filmmaking craft is done with care and energy and heart, and everything clicks. Jon Favreau’s great script — with many scenes augmented by ad-libs — is delivered with tons of strong performances from a great cast. Including Jon himself, who went to cooking school and worked for months in Chef Roy Choi’s restaurant to bring scary-good reality to his physical work in the kitchen.
With players like John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Sofia Vergara, Robert Downey Jr., Oliver Platt, Dustin Hoffman, and superb 10-year-old newcomer Emjay Anthony, all creating chemistry out the wazoo, this movie just sings.
This is a film about losing your position in life, learning to find your way in a new world of technology, and reconnecting with family. It’s a father-son buddy picture, and a road picture. It’s a floor wax and a dessert topping!
It’s been a long time since I saw a movie about realistic characters doing realistic things that was this great. We used to have more movies like this, but as Jon said in the Q&A, with the demise of the DVD market, the studios don’t want to make them anymore. And what a loss. To think that we’ve missed out on countless engaging, rewarding movies like this is a real shame. But, as he also said, with digital/new media rising, smaller, more “personal” movies like these may get a new life.
Oh, and by the way— Let me brag about the production design work of my boss and friend Denise Pizzini. I think this is her best work ever. She actually has experience designing restaurants, and I think that really shows in this movie. The look has that perfect “heightened reality” feel to it, from richly-decorated high-end restaurants to fabulous mansions to funky apartments, to rusty, grimy, beat-up old food trucks. And the photography is great, too, which supports and adds to the look. There’s a very inviting visual texture to this film; with Denise’s sets and all the literally hands-on food porn, you just want to reach into the screen and grab stuff. Okay, so Scarlett Johansson and Sofia Vergara are in it, too, but I’m not talking about them. Seriously. Because Denise didn’t design them.
Go see Chef, and enjoy it. But please — eat first. The total payload of delicious food porn in this picture is probably in violation of the Geneva Conventions.