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Laramie Movie Scope: Chef

A man, his love of food, and his son

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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July 16, 2014 -- This is one of the best movies about cooking I've ever seen. There are certain similarities to another good movie about cooking, “Ratatouille,” but without the rats. This is a movie that is in love with food and cooking. Don't go to see this if you are hungry. Make sure you eat first ... even then, you might have the urge to eat again, after seeing it.

This film appears to be a labor of love, written, produced, directed and starring Jon Favreau, with a bevvy of big stars in small roles, probably all friends of Favreau doing him favors to help this film. Favreau stars as Carl Casper, a creative chef working in a restaurant for an owner, Riva (played by Dustin Hoffman) who seems to be intent on stifling Carl's creativity.

Things come to a head one big night when a famous food critic, Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt of “2012”) comes to the restaurant expecting something new on the menu. Instead, it is the same old food that has been served there for years. Favreau gets into a fight and an online flame war with Michel and ends up out of a job. The fight between chef and critic is not a simple one. Both men have legitimate, and heartfelt, points of view and good reasons to argue over food. Carl's big fight video with Michel goes viral on the internet and Carl finds he is now so infamous he can't get a job at any restaurant.

With help from his friend, Molly (Scarlett Johansson) his ex-wife, Inez (Sofía Vergara of “Four Brothers”) and Inez's ex-husband, Marvin (Robert Downey Jr., who has previously worked with Favreau and Johansson in “Iron Man” movies) Carl is persuaded to start his own food truck operation. Carl is helped by his son, Percy (Emjay Anthony of “It's Complicated”) and a friend, another chef, Martin (John Leguizamo of “Ride Along”).

Carl has never found the time to spend much time with his son, especially at work, but when Percy helps his father restore an old food truck and helps him prepare food on a road trip across the country, the two become closer than ever. This is the key relationship in the movie. Favreau, Leguizamo and Emjay Anthony provide powerful, convincing performances that form the emotional heart of this film.

There is also a nice scene between Molly and Carl which leads to a very funny scene in the movie, underlining the fact that while Carl loves his son, and Inez, the true of love of his life is cooking. The allure of food, the seduction of food, and the joy of cooking has never been illustrated better in any film. A scene in which Carl explains to his son why he can never serve anyone food which is less than perfect is a good example of Carl's passion for cooking.

There is also a strong Hispanic flavor to this film, featuring Cuban food and Cuban music during a trip to Miami. The food served on the food truck (named El Jefe) includes Cubanos, a form of Cuban sandwich. The film also celebrates Texas barbecue, among other mouth-watering treats. The film shows a lot of effort, and passion, that goes into food prepared by this chef. It is a job, but one he enjoys. It is a job he lives for. This film rates a B+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2014 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)