If you know French film, you know the French have a proud—or at least lengthy—tradition of screwball comedy. Totally screwball. Films that make His Girl Friday and Unfaithfully Yours seem like high drama.
Le Chef falls under the screwball comedy umbrella, and it’s really, really silly and really, really French about it. Translation: It’s so committed to being goofy that it takes on a kind of casualness about the whole thing.
Alexandre Lagarde (the great Jean Reno) is a three-star chef who sold his restaurant to a conglomerate that wants him out. Jacky Bonnot (Michaël Youn, channeling 1970s-era Steve Martin) is an amateur chef who’s always getting fired and needs a job. He also has a pregnant girlfriend who’s way out of his league (Raphaëlle Agogué), and she wants him to get a job and stick with it.
With dumb luck, Jacky winds up in Lagarde’s kitchen, and they conspire—with pratfalls, raised voices and molecular gastronomy—to survive a new round of reviews, save a restaurant and start a TV show. It’s all absurd and it’s kind of fun, and it helps that Reno is Reno and Youn is Youn. But it wears out its welcome, especially with a very strange extended yellowface gag at around the hour mark.
Directed by Daniel Cohen
With Reno, Youn and Agogué
Jean Cocteau Cinema