This summer saw the release of two new foodie films, both of which I watched. The first was ‘Chef’, written by, directed by and starring Jon Favreau. It tells the story of a once-star chef who loses his job in a top LA restaurant and has to find a way to rebuild his life, rediscovering his passion for great cooking along the way.
The second, which is in UK cinemas now, was ‘The 100 Foot Journey’, starring Helen Mirren. It tells the story of an Indian family who lose everything and have to find a way of rebuilding their lives, through their passion for great cooking.
Both films are about love, about family, about ambition, about following your dreams, about dealing with loss and disappointment and about overcoming adversity. Both involve sworn enemies becoming allies, and both made me want to go home and cook great food.
The styles and characters of the films, however, were very different, reflecting the styles and characters of the food their protagonists cared about. ‘Chef’ concerns a man who, frustrated with the constraints and pretensions of ‘fine’ cooking, breaks out, lets his passions rule and cooks up spicy Mexican sandwiches from a battered old food truck. The film is, accordingly, fiery and spicy – energetic and loud with a peppering of spicy language.
‘The 100 Foot Journey’ concerns a family and their rivals, a French restaurant across the street, who love to present high quality food to its best advantage. They love food, and talk a lot about how all the different senses are involved in the experience of eating, not just the sense of taste. The film, accordingly, is a visual treat, bathed in warm, rich light, and an assault on neither the eyes nor the ears, with the language as clean as the morals.
If you’ve been reading my reviews for a while, you’ll know that too much swearing in a film or book will seriously affect my assessment of it, regardless of the storyline, acting, writing or emotional depth, and I’m finding it hard to work out if that is the only reason I enjoyed ‘100 Foot’ more than ‘Chef’. I liked the passion and energy of the latter, and the former was, at nearly two hours, a little long, but I did enjoy the former’s warmth, and perhaps found it slightly less predictable, though neither film holds any shocking plot-twists.
I enjoyed the role of the child in ‘Chef’, whereas the children in the other film didn’t really have much of a role or serve much of a plot purpose, and I liked the former’s use of social media in driving the plot – that set it clearly in a time and place which, though it means it will age more quickly than the other, does make it feel more true-to-life.
So if you don’t mind a fair amount of swearing, watch ‘Chef’. If you prefer something clean and family-friendly, watch ‘The 100 Foot Journey’, but whichever you watch, make sure you’ve got time to get to the shops afterwards, because they’ll both make you want to cook, immediately.
Chef – 4/5
The 100 Foot Journey – 4.5/5