I have pretty much given up on trying to find independent films that are worth watching. Yeah, there are ones that are worth it…but frankly the ratio between the number of independent films I see versus the ones worth seeing just doesn’t justify the cost of the ticket.
For instance there is the movie I saw this weekend, Chef. The trailer more or less sold it as a man starting up his own small business and his trials and tribulations that come from this endeavor. The idea of the story of a small businessman really resonated with me; I was hoping that maybe some directors were finally getting it and siding with entrepreneurs. Sadly the movie failed to deliver.
Chef is a movie about a chef who becomes tired and stale by playing it safe and then decides to go independent by starting his own small business out of a food truck. This independent is brought you by writer, actor, director Jon Favreau, who you may remember as the director of Iron Man 2 (a tired and stale movie that failed on many levels because it played it too safe). I deeply suspect that this movie was written in the wake of Iron Man 2 and in some ways this was an apology for it. The difference of course is that in the film there is a moment where he and his partner discuss taking a few weeks to get the menu right, to decide what to serve and what not to serve. No such similar moment occurred in writing this film which includes:
- A plot line about a relationship with Scarlett Johansson. She just disappears halfway through the film for no reason…of course her entire role could have been written out and the movie would have made sense. It’s as if they wanted to put her in the trailer to draw people in despite the fact that she serves no purpose whatsoever in the plot. The same applies to Robert Downey Jr.’s very bizarre short appearance.
- A plot line about a relationship with the chef’s ex-wife.
- A plot line about his relationship with his son.
- A plot line about the power of social media.
- And of course the plot line about starting a small business.
- Oh and a lot of screen time just looking at food porn.
Now ignoring that none of these plots is fully fleshed out, there are the problems of how preposterous the set up for this movie is.
For instance this movie exists in a world where the first tweet you ever make will go viral (and all of your follow-up tweets will also go viral). This also includes your automatic world wide presence on all forms of social media. Just log on and you will be instantly famous without having to work. As someone who has been trying for years to sell books through a variety of social media, the ease at which they use social media is just insulting. Between the scenes of watching Tony Stark put together the Iron Man suit from scratch when Favreau directed Iron Man and the ease and reach this man has with social media in this movie, building the Iron Man suit is far more grounded in reality.
It exists in a world where you can get a license to operate a food truck within hours of getting into town, and where food code enforcement bureaucrats are actually nice guys (as opposed to the reality where those worthless anti-business sons of bitches are more deserving of Gestapo comparisons). And starting a business is easy. You just need a couple friends and you’ll be a success within days of starting out on your own. No hard work or months of failure to find out what works are involved, just have talent and start a business. It will be an immediate success. And if your small business doesn’t take off in like 24 hours of you starting it, I guess that just means you’re a talentless hack or something.
On another note, if you have ever worked in a kitchen, do not see this movie. The whole second half of the film involves our main character bonding with his 10 year old son while they work in a busy food truck kitchen. As anyone who has actually worked in a busy kitchen knows, those places are a minefield of dangers to someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing…and putting an inexperienced 10 year old in the middle of that is asking for a major disaster. The kid is fine except for a few small burns, but I kept watching in horror expecting a scene where they had to rush him to a hospital. And I think anyone who has worked in a kitchen will feel the same.
Honestly I might be a little hard on the personal aspects of this film, but the business aspects of it were so unspeakably preposterous that I was never able to enjoy any of the personal relationships between the characters.
I would still love to see a movie about the struggles of a small businessman…but this movie was not it.