Hollywood gets one right.
The protagonist, played with a gruff, Fred Flinstone charm by Jon Favreau, is a man in crisis. His marriage to a gorgeous, smart, good-hearted woman (Sofia Vergara) has collapsed, and he sees his beloved son in brief, harried visits between exhausting bouts of unfulfilling work. He cooks in a restaurant whose menu is stuffed full of clichéd, crowd-pleasing dishes like lava cake — which he lacks the power to improve, since he works as a hired hard. He owns little or nothing. His family has blown into little bits. His love life consists of flirtations with a waitress half his age (albeit, one who looks like Scarlett Johansson).
In other words, he is the iconic postmodern American man. What sets this chef apart is that he decides to do something about it. He sets out to reclaim his self-respect, his economic independence, and the integrity of his family. I won’t spoil the plot by saying how he goes about it, or whether he succeeds. Go find that out for yourself.
Every dad in America should go see Chef — and bring his son. Women who want to understand the problems faced by the men in their lives would also get a lot out of seeing the film. Men, women, and children alike, I think, will greet the ending as did the Manhattan audience who saw the film with me: with a round of surprised and delighted applause.
John Zmirak is co-author of the upcoming book, The Race to Save Our Century.
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