Chefs don’t have to be hot. But it certainly helps.
Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) is a respected chef among his peers and confidantes, however, his personal life has begun to take a toll on his work. Excessive use of drugs, booze, and women, have led Adam to go straight and sober, where all he has to focus on now is his kitchen and the food he produces. In an attempt to rebuild his career to where it was once before and gain those three Michelin stars he’s been so desperately fighting for, Adam’s old friend, Tony (Daniel Brühl), sets him up in his hotel’s kitchen, where all sorts of people come by and languish in the food that he and his kitchen have made. And with an all-star staff including the fiery, but ambitious Helene (Sienna Miller), Adam thinks that his lifelong goal my finally be on the horizon. Problem is, Adam’s past life with drugs still haunt him until this very day, which tend to make him more tense and angry to those who least deserve it; something that may ultimately cause Adam of gaining those three Michelin stars and also send him back to the bottomless pit of life that he tried so hard to get out of.
Burnt hasn’t had a very easy trip to the theaters and honestly, it’s a bit of a shame, too. For one, it suffers the problem of coming out within a year of Jon Favreau’s Chef movie, as well as featuring the two co-stars from the biggest of 2014 (American Sniper). You’d think that with the latter problem, the studio would find a way to make that work to their advantage, but for some odd reason, there hasn’t been much of a focus on the fact that this is, yet again, another pairing of Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller. Except, this time, instead of being in the battlefield, they’re in the kitchen.
Which, isn’t all that different, from what Burnt shows.
And honestly, the best parts of Burnt are when they are in that kitchen, prepping-up the food, getting in formation, scoping out what sort of crowd they have to work with, and most of all, fighting and bickering at one another. Though director John Wells may get a bit carried away with his constant chopping and cutting of certain shots, it did help add a certain bit of excitement to scenes that, quite frankly, could have just been nothing more than food-porn at its worst. Instead, we get to see how these people work and maneuver around in the kitchen, seemingly doing what they love to do. They may not get paid much and not have all that much time to spend at home with their families, but what they’re doing with their lives (which is making grub for rich snobs), is honestly all that they need in their lives to make themselves go home happy and feel as if something was accomplished in said day.
Which is to say that everything else that takes place outside of the kitchen in Burnt is, honestly, not as exciting, fun, or interesting to watch. Instead, it’s just predictable and boring, as most redemption tales can tend to be if their lead protagonists aren’t all that intriguing to watch or dissect.
And in the case of Adam Jones, this is sort of true. While the character may be poorly-written, you can tell that Bradley Cooper, being the grade-A talent that he is, truly is trying to make this character pop-off the screen and be more than just your average, ignorant, misogynistic and mean dick-head. There’s a few scenes where it’s actually entertaining to watch as he berates each and everyone of his co-workers for not stepping up their games, but in the end, all it really adds up to is him just showing us more and more reasons why we shouldn’t like him, nor ever actually root for him when we’re supposed to.
Once again, though, none of this is Cooper’s fault; he’s so talented at what he does, that being a huge prick, in his own way, can come off as being slightly “charming”. It’s just that so much of the movie is about his personal life and the issues he seems to be having, that it feels like it isn’t really giving him much to work with. Sure, we get that he’s sad that he was once a total and complete junkie who couldn’t make a dish, but really, is he that great of a guy to begin with? Favreau’s Chef showed that, through cooking and creating food, he was making himself, as well as those that he loved, better because of it; Burnt just shows that cooking is Adam Jones’ way of coping with all of the problems he used to have in his life, but at the same time, doesn’t seem to actually be treating any of those around him, who may genuinely care for his sorry-ass, any better.
He’s still a prick and that’s about it.
Still, those surrounding Cooper do fine jobs, too. Sienna Miller and Cooper have such great chemistry together that it’s absolutely no surprise that they work well here, sometimes playing-off of one another’s personalities; Daniel Brühl gives a heartfelt performance as Jones’ childhood friend, even if a revelation about this character does settle in to the story awkwardly and seemingly out-of-nowhere; Omar Sy is fine as Jones’ trusted confidante who, like Brühl’s Tony, has a revelation about him that’s a bit odd; and Matthew Rhys does a great job as one of Jones’ arch-rivals who is not only as much of a vindictive dick as Jones, but is also a bit more humane, and it shows quite well.
The whole cast here is fine and in no way do I blame them for any of the movie’s short-comings. But to be honest, I don’t even find that many short-comings to be had with Burnt; sure, it’s a bit messy and definitely feels as if it’s taken more than a few trips to the cutting-board, but honestly, it still works because it constantly keep its story moving. Even if Adam Jones is, like I said, not a very strong character, everything surrounding him can be, which helps make it go down like nice bowl of rice pudding.
Had to throw in a food metaphor.
Consensus: Burnt may not be perfect, but is at least entertaining and well-acted enough to where it feels like a better movie about cooking, rather than its central character.
6.5 / 10