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Hammerle On…'The Fault in our Stars,' 'Chef'

Robert Hammerle
June 18, 2014
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bob hammerle movie reviews“The Fault in Our Stars”

“The Fault in Our Stars” is a significant movie because its content exceeds its promotional image. Sure, you are going to be brought to tears repeatedly as you watch teenagers dying of cancer who fall in love. However, the movie is about the quality of life as opposed to the trauma of death.

Shailene Woodley is extraordinary as she jumps from her convincing role in “Divergent” to Hazel, a gutsy young girl fighting cancer and expectant death. In order to breathe, she carries an oxygen tank with her everywhere. She faces the end of her road where she will neither seek nor accept any type of sympathy.

While reluctantly forced to attend a support group at the urging of her parents, her life changes immediately when she meets an 18-year-old boy named Gus, a young lad with an artificial leg who is fighting his own cancer affliction. Gus is at the meeting to help a friend facing imminent blindness, an energetic kid (Natt Wolff, a spitting image of a young Peter Riegert) whose intelligence matches his wit.

Gus, played with feeling by Ansel Elgort, is hard for both Hazel and the audience to initially grasp. Constantly seen chewing on an unlit cigarette to calm his nerves, he evolves from a borderline S.O.B. to a kid you will embrace along with Hazel.

As Hazel and Gus face death, you crash head-on into the meaning of life. You are reminded that funerals are for the living and not for the dead. You also confront the reality that life is not about the number of people who remember you, but those who loved you.

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  Though I have not read the book by John Green, director Josh Boone brings death fully to life. In that regard, Laura Dern and Sam Trammell give convincing performances as Hazel’s distraught parents. They completely love her and try to provide her a meaningful existence as they wrestle with their personal torment.

Additionally, there is an extraordinary moment in the film where Hazel, her mother and Gus travel to Amsterdam to visit the author of her favorite book. The book concerns the death of a young girl, though the writer, Van Houten, turns out to be a morbid alcoholic. Played with hateful style by Willem Dafoe, he continues to distinguish himself with characters who you love to loathe.

After their ugly experience with Van Houten, Hazel and Gus are escorted to the home of Anne Frank. As you watch Hazel struggle up numerous stairs with her oxygen tank, the two young girls seem to share the same soul.

In the end, while this movie centers on family tragedies that you hope no one has to endure, we all know the reality of life. Despite the fact that we are all going to face the deaths of family and friends as we age, we don’t simply write off life because of that inevitable end.

In a sense, it is almost like the joy of having pets. No, you don’t avoid inviting them into your home despite the sad fact that they are going to die before you. You embrace them because of the love and joy they bring to your home during the time you have with them.

That is the meaning of this exquisite little film.

“Chef”

Though it won’t win an Oscar unless it is for the inventive screenplay, you will never see a more enjoyable movie this year than “Chef.” Written, directed and starring Jon Favreau, it is a cinematic joy.

If you love to cook, or simply enjoy eating good food, this is a film that you can’t miss. Jon Favreau, looking like a reborn James Gandolfini, plays Carl Casper, a skilled divorced chef whose life is in turmoil. Incurring the ire of his unmovable boss (Dustin Hoffman) when he tries to reinvent his menu when a food critic (Oliver Platt) lashes out at him in print, he is subsequently fired following a hysterically bitter restaurant encounter between the three unfortunately shown on YouTube.

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His reputation in ruins, Carl reluctantly accompanies his ex-wife, Inez, played by the beautiful and talented Sofia Vergara, and their 10-year old son on her business trip to Miami. Gaining the financial backing of Inez’s first husband, played with outlandish joy by Robert Downey Jr., Carl reinvents himself by starting a mobile food service in a truck named “el Jefe.”

What follows is an enthralling journey as Carl, accompanied by his distant son and a close friend played with spirit by John Leguizamo, drive back to California. They stop at various cities along the way, including New Orleans, and father and son gradually find each other in a journey that will capture your heart.

The movie is helped enormously by all of the performances, including contributions from Bobby Cannavale’s Tony and Scarlett Johansson’s Molly. Tony is a close friend of Carl who took over his old job, while Molly is a knock-out playing the hostess at Carl’s prior restaurant. She is as charming as she is funny, and no woman has ever looked better in dark hair and a number of shoulder tattoos.

However, it is the performance of Emjay Anthony, playing the 10-year-old Percy, who will delight you at every turn. A young boy in pursuit of a relationship with his father, he proves to be far more adept on the Internet than the old man. Carl reminded me of myself at that point.

While the scenery throughout the film is splendid, it is the music that commands your attention. It involves live singers at times, and you need to hunt down those songs as some are available on iTunes.

This is a movie about a chef’s love of cooking that enables him to rediscover the inherent meaning of life. It makes for a tremendous follow-up to my recently reviewed “The Fault in Our Stars.”

“Chef” is one of those films where it is next to impossible to leave the theater without a grin on your face.•

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Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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  1. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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