Warning: Do not watch this on an empty stomach!!!
Director: John Wells. Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Daniel Bruhl, Omar Sy, Alicia Vikander, Matthew Rhys & Emma Thompson. Genre: Drama. Running Time: 101 minutes. Budget: $20 million. Rating: UK (15), USA (R)
2015 has been a mixed year for Bradley Cooper. He captivated audiences with his stunning Oscar nominated performance in American Sniper but was part of the snoozefest that was Aloha. Cooper’s latest film, Burnt, combines the highs and lows of his year into one flick.
Burnt sees Cooper play Adam Jones – a two starred Michelin chef who once stood on top of the culinary mountain in Paris but blew it all away on drugs and alcohol while burning many bridges along the way. After being sober for over two years and serving a self-penance in a bog-standard New Orleans restaurant, he goes to London and reunites with the son of his mentor Tony (Daniel Bruhl).
Adam persuades a reluctant Tony to let him take over his restaurant and assembles a crew of cooks, including Siena Miller’s sous chef Helene and Omar Sy’s former friend Michele, to help him restore his former glory and earn the elusive third Michelin star. Several blasts from the past threaten to derail his road to redemption as Adam must face those he previously hurt along with his inner demons.
As previously mentioned, make sure you eat before you seeing this film as watching Burnt will leave you seriously hungry. Trust me – I ate my dinner less than an hour before watching the film and the first sight of food made me ravenous. Adam wants the customers in his restaurant to have “culinary orgasms” and director John Wells makes the food on show appear very sexy indeed. The high quality meals look absolutely sumptuous and will have you salivating for a taste.
We see the food being prepared in some great little montages which give the film a quick and snappy feel. They also reflect the frantic and frenzied nature of working in a kitchen. Despite the stressfulness of it all, the cooking scenes have a visual poetry and fluidity about them which gives Burnt a sense of beauty.
Cooper makes for a convincing chef – and seeing him get his Gordon Ramsay on is riveting. When Adam explodes into expletive ridden rants, it’s both thrilling and threatening with Cooper exuding magnetic intensity. He displays Adam’s unrelenting strive for perfection, his supreme arrogance and his hidden insecurities in gripping fashion.
Cooper also shares great chemistry with his American Sniper co-star Sienna Miller, with the highlight of their second collaboration being a fierce confrontation in the kitchen as an irate Adam tries to dominate Helene, who bravely stands her ground in a very hostile scene. Miller is magnificent as the single mother Helene who struggles to balance being there for her young daughter Lily and working under the demanding head chef Adam.
Daniel Bruhl’s restaurant owner Tony, Omar Sy’s right-hand man Michele, Alicia Vikander’s ex-girlfriend Anne Marie, Matthew Rhys’s rival chef Reece and Emma Thompson’s therapist Dr Rosshilde are all interesting characters fantastically played by the supporting cast.
While the uber-talented workers onscreen are all on fine form, the material handed to them by those off-screen doesn’t quite match their efforts. Considering screenplay writer Steven Knight penned 2014’s Locke, which saw Tom Hardy sat in a car for an entertaining 84 minutes, his work on Burnt is slightly disappointing. One big irritating flaw was that we’re told time and time again through the dialogue of how much of a drink-and-drug-fuelled dick Adam was in the past but we never actually see any of the terrible things he did to anybody. By the millionth mention of his awful former ways, you’re dying to see just how bad he really was. A 10 minute prologue or at least a couple of flashbacks of Adam’s horrible history would have added greater emotional weight to the scenes where his past comes back to haunt him.
One of those scenes involving some short-changed drug dealers is very poorly executed as the drug dealers feel rather lazily thrown into the film.
For a redemption story to really work, we need to see the negativity that a character is trying to atone for and we only see the latter half of Adam’s journey which is rather frustrating.
Although the relationship between Adam and Helene entertains due to Cooper and Miller, it’s poorly written as the pair detest one another then swoon over each other way too quickly which gives the film an unconvincing and rather typically cheesy “Hollywood” feel.
Knight’s script does contain some very humorous lines but it also features some very cringe-worthy dialogue too. To be fair to Knight, who developed the story by Michael Kalesniko, there’s a very good and shocking twist which makes for some terrific drama.
Ultimately, while Cooper, Miller and the rest of the cast are delightful, they’re let down by an undercooked script. With such a large array of talent involved, it’s a shame that Burnt doesn’t quite reach its full potential. It does provide an interesting insight into the fine dining industry and is sure to entertain you. But, just like the small portions you get in fancy restaurants, you’ll leave wanting more. Burnt scores a:
1ish – 2ish Stay away at ALL costs!!!
3ish – 4ish A bad film, not Michael Jackson Bad, but just straight up bad
5ish – 6ish Probably worth seeing at some point
7ish – 8ish A fantastic film definitely worth watching whenever you can
9ish -10 Unmissable – go watch it now!!!
Check out the trailer here: