A tale revolving around fine French dining vs. molecular dining brings out some funny performances by Jean Reno and Michaël Youn.
Jacky Bonnot is an aspiring chef who is constantly finding himself in one deadend job after another, resulting in his constantly getting fired. Of course, this causes problems with his girlfriend Béatrice, who is pregnant with the couple’s first child. When Jacky accepts a six-month contract as a painter for a nursing home, he sees the kitchen staff watching a show starring renowned chef Alexandre Lagarde. Jacky has long idolized Alexandre and has even based his own style of cooking based on him. What Jacky will soon learn that his idol has problems of his own.
Alexandre is in danger of losing his restaurant Cargo Lagarde to a rival chef who is more into the modern style of molecular dining. When Jacky accepts Alexandre’s offer to be an assistant, things don’t go as planned until the veteran realizes that his passion for cooking is slowly diminishing partly due to his lack of a relationship with his daughter Amandine. Meanwhile, when Béatrice learns about Jacky’s new job, she is upset that he lied and leaves him. As the two chefs find the determination and combine both fine dining with the new molecular style, they soon learn that there is one thing that can keep their dreams alive.
Many have seen Jean Reno more as a tough guy character who’s perhaps well known for action and drama films. The two Pink Panther films, where he played the partner of Steve Martin’s Inspector Clouseau, showed a softer and comedic side to Reno. Then again, I haven’t seen many of his French films, so it’s not exactly fair to compare with his films in the U.S. However, this French comedy shows Reno’s softer side to true form in his role of a master chef who must deal with two things: his lack of love for his daughter and the change in cuisine from traditional to molecular gastronomy. He is truly a man of tradition and will not conform to the new style, thus making it outdated in the eyes of his unscrupulous landlord, played with such cockiness by Julien Boisselier. Ironically, the landlord’s father, played by Pierre Vernier, sides with the traditions Lagarde makes.
Reno’s partner in crime is terrifically played by Michaël Youn. Many Jackie Chan fans will recognize Youn as the Paris art gallery owner in the 2004 adaptation of Around the World in 80 Days. Youn plays an aspiring chef who like Reno, believes in using more traditional methods yet amps it up in terms of flavors. However, he too has problems in terms of holding a job, living his dream of being a true chef, and trying to make his pregnant girlfriend happy.
However, the bond between both Lagarde and Jacky is truly quite interesting and expected. They start out bickering over their differences in flavor until Lagarde sees something in Jacky. In addition, it is clear that while molecular gastronomy is the new style of French haute cuisine, they come up with a brilliant idea to merge both the tradition and the modern. This leads to some funny sequences involving how to adapt gastronomy that starts with Jacky bringing in a Spanish-French “expert” in the field and yes the quotes are there for a reason. Then, it gets funnier when both go to their rival’s restaurant disguised as a Japanese couple. However, overall there is a lesson that goes with the story and it is clear that it may seem predictable but at the same times, still has some small twists that work well.
Le Chef is truly a fun French film about love and cuisine. Jean Reno and Michaël Youn truly mesh well together and even provide some laughs both together and separately when necessary. Bon appetit!
WFG RATING: B+
Gaumont and TF1 Films Productions presents an A Contracorriente Films/uFilm in association with Backup Films, Canal+, Ciné+, and Umedia. Director: Daniel Cohen. Producer: Sidonie Dumas. Writers: Daniel Cohen and Olivier Dazat. Cinematography: Robert Fraisse. Editing: Géraldine Rétif.
Cast: Jean Reno, Michaël Youn, Raphaëlle Agogué, Julien Boisselier, Salomé Stévenin, Serge Larivière, Issa Doumbia, Bun-Hay Mean, Pierre Vernier, Santiago Segura.