“I don’t want my restaurant to be a place where people sit and eat.”
If I ever need to punish myself for any reason, I’ll make sure I find a seafood shack and clean 1,000,000 oysters. Superstar chef Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) has lived a superstar life in Paris and all of the vices that it can entail in drugs, women, and extreme arrogance. Realizing he needs to get away, Adam decides to do his self-imposed “time” in New Orleans, cleaning clams.
Some years later, he decides it is time to make amends with the people he’s wronged, and just as important, get back into the culinary game by serving as the head chef in a restaurant owned by a old friend’s son (Daniel Brühl). His ultimate goal? To obtain an elusive three star Michelin rating, an honor bestowed upon the best chefs in the world. Never one to appreciate those who worked with him, Adam is going to need every bit of culinary talent, from up and coming sous chef Helene (Sienna Miller), to old kitchen co-worker Michel (Omar Sy) to fulfill his redemption story.
Even with the success of something like Chef, I think it is fair to say that the culinary arts isn’t an area that is featured a lot in film. That is kind of a good thing, as there’s an air of freshness whenever a film about cooking, and in this case the real profession of it, comes along. With Burnt, there’s some good and fresh ingredients on the plate, and just as many that are little reheated.
Burnt and director John Wells (August: Osage County) are most satisfying when in the kitchen. Not a surprise, but likely due to real chefs being utilized (Gordon Ramsey himself is a consultant on the film) as extras with no such “toy” props to be found, there is a real authenticity to the happenings that occur where food is prepped and made. It is every bit as fast-paced as one could imagine, and the editing seems to reflect that. Depending on the preference of the viewer, the rapid splice cutting could be an annoyance, but for yours truly, it seemed to enhance, for the most part, what it would be like in working in a high-volume restaurant, and seeing each character in the fire is fun to watch.
It is the rest of the story that is underseasoned, with stale humor as well. Except for one unforeseen and pleasant twist, Adam’s comeback (SPOILER ALERT) is never in question. The story is just there, with the common romance and comeback clichés. There’s a semi-bizarre part in the 3rd act that seems like it will go somewhere with a couple of the characters, but doesn’t. And the three Michelin star goal is obviously a major honor for one as well as a restaurant to receive, but in Burnt, a two star restaurant and a three star restaurant do not seem that different. It is curious to know just how receiving the honor will change Adam’s life, to which Wells and writer Steven Knight (Locke), do not really explore. Honestly, Burnt is Southpaw with frying pans and julienne cuts, but with a lesser and somewhat abrasive lead character.
No real fault to Bradley Cooper, though. This will likely not rank high on the “Best roles of BCoop list” when all is said and done, but it is a solid performance with some impressive moments. He’s totally believable as a hothead and hotshot chef even if the audience is only told that Adam is the best chef, as opposed to actually seeing it. Cooper is a presence in almost every movie he appears in. But, it is odd that he and Sienna Miller, co-stars in American Sniper, lack chemistry.
The scenes where they are paired together make Burnt bland; it would have been better if Cooper’s character was more of the mentor type to Helene. Supporting roles are filled by Daniel Brühl, Omar Sy, Alicia Vikander, and Emma Thompson to name a few. They are all accomplished thespians, but expect for Brühl, none gets a substantial shot at adding to the movie, notable names more than anything.
How does the old saying go? If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Burnt is best when it is in the kitchen, in the heat, serving as an obvious fictional, but still kind of grounded in reality showcase of what the culinary business is like night-in and out at a popular restaurant. It is outside of the kitchen where most of the rest of the film is bland in taste.
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