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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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