Friday, October 30, 2015


It didn't make me hungry. That's an interesting response to have towards a film centered around food. Our story stars Bradley Cooper as talented chef, recovering addict, and all around asshole Adam Jones who basically blackmails the old friend (Daniel Brühl) he screwed over in his last job into hiring him as the chef for a mediocre London restaurant. Jones' motives are two-fold. First, he honestly does want to make amends to those he's wronged in the past. At least as important to him, however, is the chance to reclaim glory in the hopes of achieving the prestigious three Michelin star rating as one of the best restaurants (and chefs) in Europe.
I joke that the food on display didn't wet my appetite but Burnt deals with a different side of the retaurant business by focusing as much on its burdens, costs, and obsessive personalities struggling to work behind the scenes as it does about creating the food. Even when the film puts the food first the perspective is always more about the presentation of the meal than the meal itself. Although the film constantly tells us that Jones is culinary genius it rarely shows us actual examples of this on-screen.

Despite not being what I ordered, and being slightly overcooked, Burnt isn't a meal I would send back to the kitchen. Cooper does make Jones an interesting character to watch fight his own inclinations to implode when the going gets rough. Sienna Miller is stuck in the rather thankless role of the talented sous chef and single mother who needs her job too much to tell Jones where to stick it every time he deserves to be smacked down. I never quite buy the romantic tension between them. Sure they both love food, and he restaurant they are helping each other turn around, but I don't see that affection turning towards each other in any meaningful way.

As for the rest of the cast, the kitchen crew is serviceable but not memorable, Alicia Vikander is wasted in a small role as Jones' former flame who deserves far more screentime, Emma Thompson is your average smart-ass shrink who immediately sizes up her new patient, and Matthew Rhys has an intriguing role as Jones' rival who starts to get interesting when he stops behaving like an angry toddler. Here the film is certainly a little thin on ingredients focusing instead to promote Cooper as it's main course. (Don't worry, the food metaphors are almost finished.)

Burnt is far too similar to the movie version of fast food than it would like to admit. The characters are largely one-dimensional, the script offers few surprises (even when it attempts to do so), and it lacks an emotional heart by centering its story around such an unlikable character. Despite these issues the film still entertains on a basic level. It's certainly no gourmet experience, but for a cheap meal it may satisfy your hunger (at least for a couple of hours).

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