Burnt (2015) / Drama-Comedy
MPAA Rated: R for language throughout
Running Time: 101 min.
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Daniel Bruhl, Emma Thompson, Matthew Rhys, Omar Sy, Ricardo Scarmacio, Sam Keeley, Henry Goodman, Stephen Campbell Moore, Sarah Greene
Small role: Uma Thurman, Alicia Vikander, Lily James
Director: John Wells
Screenplay: Steven Knight
Review published November 3, 2015
Bradley Cooper (Aloha, Serena) stars as Adam Jones, a chef so skilled that he at one time possessed two Michelin stars for his Parisian restaurant, only to squander it away and going into hiding after going into serious debt due to too many expensive vices. After going straight and clean, and no longer able to tolerate shucking oysters in a New Orleans dive, Adam is set to make a comeback with a restaurant in London after manipulating help from a friend, the fancy hotel businessman named Tony (Bruhl, Woman in Gold), on a quest to earn the vaunted third Michelin star. He pulls together his ragtag super-team to help in the kitchen, and though all respect him for his talent, none really like him as a person, especially in the destructive, profanity-infused tantrums he throws whenever things aren't absolutely perfect.
The fact that Gordon Ramsey serves as chef consultant of a film in which the main character is very reminiscent of his caustic demeanor in the kitchen will come as no surprise to foodies out there. As a character, Adam Jones is perhaps too idealized as a naughty rock star more so than a serious chef, wearing a leather jacket and supercool shades almost incessantly, rolling around on a stylish motorcycle in his perpetual five-o-clock shadow, looking like he belongs more in an action flick like Top Gun, than in any kind of serious look at a chef trying to be the top dog in the restaurant business. And like Top Gun, we all know that this major jerk-wad will eventually be tamed through finding a woman who will make him a better man, and given that Sienna Miller (Unfinished Business), who previously co-starred alongside Cooper in American Sniper, is the only woman he ever makes any kind of real conversation with for much of the movie (often just to insult her, but that's just playing hard to get, it would seem), it's pretty evident just where things will go in the end, especially as she's given quite a bit of a back story in her struggles as a single mom to a precocious young daughter.
As with most films about cuisine, you don't want to go in hungry, with sumptuous food creations on display from consultant chefs Mario Batali and Marcus Wareing. The only things burnt in this movie in which the chefs are supposed to be at the pinnacle of their culinary powers are the proverbial bridges in just about any relationship Adam Jones establishes with anyone around him. The film is written by Steven Knight (Seventh Son, Pawn Sacrifice), who also adapted the book for the screen with 2013's The Hundred-Foot Journey, which also features a quest to gain the third and final Michelin star for a restaurant. That film feels so much more charming than this clumsily scripted effort, with characters who have supposedly known each other for years speaking to each other as if they're talking to amnesia patients who need refreshers. Directed without any real consistency in tone from John Wells, whose past as the show runner for TV's "E.R." might explain the made-for-TV feel of the ensemble acting. Though primarily a drama, plenty of the dialogue comes across as snicker worthy, with philosophical musings on oyster shucking, the strengths and flaws of Burger King, and how each Michelin star compares with the various levels of master Jedi (one is Luke Skywalker, two is Obi-Wan Kenobi, and three is Yoda).
Cooper, who previously played a chef on the television series, "Kitchen Confidential", is charismatic but still unappealing in a role so phony that you can actually tell he's acting, trying to make a character that seemingly has only two gears seem plausible. I'm can't be completely sure without seeing the film again, which I have little intention of ever doing, but I could swear that he called Kurosawa's masterpiece, Seven Samurai as "The Seventh Samurai", but what else can you expect from a chef who thinks Michelin stars are given to chefs instead of to restaurants. Sienna Miller fares a little better in her wafer-thin role, though one wonders why a single mother would willingly entertain the notion of bringing home to her innocent young daughter a former drug addicted, alcoholic womanizer who can scarcely control his rage, flinging food and plates across rooms and lashing out the worst insults from those who are only seeking to help him live out his dreams of success. I guess steely eyes and looking decent with one's shirt off is all that's important! He's the kind of guy who plants a kiss on a gay man's lips and gets thanked.
In an era in which a superior comedy like the seemingly effortless but endlessly entertaining Chef exists, Burnt certainly feels overcooked by comparison, leading viewers antsy to send it back to the proverbial kitchen. Fittingly, the film about a two-star chef gets a two-star rating, though in this case, that's not something worth bragging about.
©2015 Vince Leo