Jacky Bonnot (Michael Youn) is a brilliant young chef who won't compromise - and can't keep a job, to the eternal frustration of his pregnant girlfriend Béatrice (Raphaëlle Agogué). During an emergency job as a house painter his luck seems to change and he is hired for a trial by the great Alexandre Lagarde (Jean Reno), who is under threat of losing one of his three stars - and thus his job in the restaurant that bears his name but is owned by a mogul and his self centred son, Stanislas Matter (Julien Boisselier). Jacky is too afraid to tell Beatrice that he's working as an intern and Alexandre is too afraid of the new molecular cuisine to change. But the food must go on ...
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Apart from l'amour, the French have a passion for le food, which is entirely laudable. Le Chef is about food, but not only; it's also about the importance of l'amour.
Jean Reno as the great Alexandre Lagarde makes cooking a serious business, as he did in Jet Lag, where he had climbed to the top of a corporate food chain, only to regret it. There, too, it was l'amour which saved his soul, and not unreasonably thanks to Juliette Binoche as the brioche of his choice, as it were.
Here, his amour arrives late in the film, because most of his time is spent defending his cooking habits from either his newfound No 2, Jacky Bonnot (Michaël Youn) or from those feared food crits from the Guide, who can rob a chef of one of his stars, the equivalent of a vasectomy.
In this froth of a film, everything is a bit larger than life, but it's done with a nice sense of abandon and it's grounded by the performances. The duelling chefs each have a challenge to meet: the old one of keeping his reputation, the new one of keeping his pregnant girlfriend, Béatrice (Raphaëlle Agogué).
The villain is a young upstart, Stanislas Matter (Julien Boisselier) the son of the corporation boss who owns Alexandre's restaurant - and many others. He's seduced by the miniscule power of molecular gastronomy. The film pokes fun at this concept, much like the French might poke fun at a sparkling wine calling itself champagne.
Performances are neatly tied to the film's tone and the resolution is perfect for a mainstream movie. If you're in the mood for a quick bite, you will not be disappointed - just don't expect haute cuisine cinema.
Review by Louise Keller:
Light and broad comedy fuse together harmoniously in this frothy comedy set in the restaurant world in which cuisine, relationships and careers are agitated precariously in a mixing bowl of surprises. The humour plays out courtesy culinary odd couple Jean Reno and Michaël Youn, whose scenes together range from the harmonious to the ridiculous. The scene in which Reno and Youn dress as a Japanese dignitary and traditional Geisha with exaggerated red cupid lips as they spy on a cutting edge restaurant's new molecular cuisine reaches its hilarious peak when Youn shovels plates of food samples into the convenient folds of his kimono's sleeves. The film's sentiments however, are as traditional as millefeuille and imagery of mouth-watering cuisine coupled with the ever-appealing Parisian backdrops are a delectable treat.
Making full use of the talents of French comedian Michaël Youn, director Daniel Cohen's screenplay nicely establishes the quirkiness of Youn's screen persona of Jacky Bonnot, the Mozart of the Kitchen and Vegetable Whisperer, who has long been a fan of acclaimed three-star chef Alexandre Lagarde (Reno) and knows Lagarde's recipes and philosophies better than the man himself. Lagarde having lost his creative mojo and confidence is under pressure by the owners of the establishment that bears his name to retain his three stars or he will be fired. Bonnot's emotive passion for culinary creation outweighs any notion of responsibility to keep a job and make his pregnant girlfriend Béatrice (Raphaëlle Agogué) feel secure.
There are many laugh-aloud moments including the one in which a Spanish expert in Molecular Cuisine appears, looking like one of The Addams Family, whose brightly coloured concoctions mixed with liquid nitrogen turn the kitchen into a farcial chemistry lab. But it is the more subtle situations that play out like a comedy of errors that have the greatest entertainment value. Like the scene in which Bonnot is hooked up by video to the kitchen at the old people's home, where he is instructing its chefs simultaneously as those in Lagarde's kitchen. Bonnot's attempts to pacify Béatrice are very funny, as are Lagarde's with his daughter Amandine (Salomé Stévenin) and her passion for Russian literature. Both realize that without the vital ingredient of love, nothing is worthwhile.
Bonnot has a marvellous screen presence - in the vein of a young Steve Martin, and while Reno may not be at the peak he showed in the 2002 charmer Jet Lag (with Juliette Binoche), in which he also played a troubled Chef, he is nonetheless a good foil for the scene-stealing Bonnot. Scrumptious entertainment.
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LE CHEF (PG)
Comme un chef
CAST: Jean Reno, Michaël Youn, Raphaëlle Agogué, Julien Boisselier, Salomé Stévenin
PRODUCER: Sidonie Dumas
DIRECTOR: Daniel Cohen
SCRIPT: Daniel Cohen
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Fraisse
EDITOR: Géraldine Rétif
MUSIC: Nicola Piovani
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Hugues Tissandier
RUNNING TIME: 84 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 14, 2012