Bradley Cooper starred in one of the biggest films last year, could have taken any project he wanted, but the four time Oscar nominated actor/producer lands in a cooking film. For something so specific, there sure are a lot of motion pictures circulating around chefs and food. This past SXSW I saw the yet to be released Bone in the Throat (based on Anthony Bourdain’s book), Chef was a huge indie hit in 2014, the flavorless foreign film Tasting Menu (2013), Helen Mirren in One Hundred Foot Journey (2014), it’s an endless list. It’s impossible for Burnt to offer anything new or different simply because the saturation of foodie films. What’s worse is that Cooper, an actor benefiting greatly on his charisma more so than talent, is playing a mentally unstable Charlie Sheen type character.

     After shucking exactly one million oysters in a seedy Louisiana restaurant, Adam Jones (Cooper), considers his self-ordered punishment complete. Three years ago Jones was one of Paris’ tops chefs, but his problem with alcohol and every possible illegal substance combined with women ruined his life, career and passion. The two star chef has returned to Europe, clean and sober, determined to get that third star. Luxurious Langham hotel manager Tony (Brühl) is manipulated in allowing the disgraced Chef another chance. Jones carefully selects the team that will work in the kitchen, including Helene (Miller) and an old friend (Sy) he disgraced back in Paris.

It’s better than it should be. Script isn’t without its clever moments

     The script spends a lot of time alluding to Jones past reign of terror, while we never actually see what he did in Paris, Cooper’s animal like display of rage on the restaurants opening night is all you need. Because our main character is so despicable, it’s up to the supporting characters to lighten the load and convince him to change. From Thompson’s too few scenes, to a cameo appearance from Thurman, Burnt tries everything, even sticking in 2015 acting sensation Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl, Ex Machina) in a part not in the script (at Harvey Weinstein’s request). It’s better than it should be, although after eating blueberry cheesecake once a week for desert, the last thing you want on a special desert night is another slice of blueberry cheesecake.

     If you’re worried about seeing Burnt on an empty stomach, don’t be. This isn’t a mouthwatering film like Julie & Julia or those sandwiches that you could smell Jon Favreau cooking on screen. Burnt only features food that takes up 10% of the plate. The script isn’t without its clever moments, one in particular where Jones defends Burger King with a surprising “consistency” reference. Another has one character describing his behavior based on Star Wars characters. Cooper does allow the ice to melt and we see the predictable redemption this character is headed towards when he bakes a beautiful flower cake for a birthday girl. There are many tonal differences between Burnt and Chef, but the biggest is explained in one scene where Jones is frustrated by a review calling his food good. He says, “I don’t want my restaurant to be a place where people sit and eat. I want people to sit at that table and be sick with longing”. He and the movie seem to miss the same simple ideal.

Final Thought

Nothing new on the menu.


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