The stories in this movie are all familiar ingredients: an ex-wife he still cares about, a boss he doesn’t care for, learning to bond with a son he has ignored because of work, and of course the most common job of actors in movies today – running a food truck. Yet you mix all those ingredients, with the talented triple-threat of Jon Favreau – and it becomes comfort food for the film fan.
As a director, Favreau could teach Tarantino a few things. He does a great job with his close-ups of food – whether it’s the creative process or how it’s presented (QT tried in Inglourious, for some reason). He also used songs that were infectious, and complemented the scenes. Tarantino (aside from Pulp Fiction), just picks songs he likes, whether they fit the scenes or not.
As an actor, Favreau shows the studio suits that you don’t have to look like George Clooney to play the lead. We even believe that Sofia Vergara and Scarlett Johansson could fall for him. He’s so passionate and good at what he does.
The chef character also isn’t one dimensional, and that’s always a more interesting way to write (Favreau penned it). In fact, so many of the characters were interesting, we yearn to see movies about these other people: Amy Sedaris as an ambitious agent that wants to exploit an embarrassing You Tube moment.
I would’ve loved to have seen more Oliver Platt, although I say that about every movie he’s in. Dustin Hoffman only has a few scenes, but they’re incredible. In the first scene he’s in, the way they argue about what the restaurant menu will have is done brilliantly. You understand why each character would feel the way they do, and neither is a jerk for feeling that way. In fact, you could make a good case that the chef was the bigger jerk.
I’m no foodie, but even I could appreciate that they showed these elaborate gourmet meals, as well as some kettle corn, Texas BBQ, New Orleans Po’ boys and beignets, as well as pressed, golden Cuban sandwiches (you’re hungry reading that line, just try to sit through the movie on an empty stomach).
The cast is better than the food! It also includes Robert Downey, Jr. (one of the perks you get directing Iron Man movies, is you can get him in your indie), as well as John Leguizamo, and two faces you’ve never seen but bring a vibrant life to the screen – Cuban singer Jose “Perico” Hernandez and 10-year-old Emjay Anthony, who was adorable. It’s also refreshing that he wasn’t too precocious or annoying.
The famous food critic (Platt) and chef get into a fight that’s all over the internet, and that sends the Favreau off to Miami to buy a food truck. The movie loses a bit when it becomes a road trip picture. Those segments could’ve been tighter.
Of course, the son and father bond over their work together on that truck, and the boy helping him learn to navigate all the social media. As the kid astutely points out, “We can teach each other things.”
Even the small, throw-away scenes were magical. The father and son watching Texas bluesman Gary Clark, Jr. after a hard days work; the father and son having a frank talk about what direction their relationship would go in.
There’s a scene where the guys all meet up in a bar and talk like real guys that are three sheets to the wind, as they apologize and hug each other. Leguizama saying, “Let’s just have a 3-way right here.”
You can’t help but laugh when the sullen Favreau watches “Mr. Bone Tangles” – a puppet on the street lip-syncing to Al Green. It might be the best use of an Al Green song ever.
And did I mention the food was shot well? Heck, the entire movie was beautifully shot. This gets 4 stars out of 5.