Burnt (2015) Movie Review: No, Chef!

Language : English | Running Time :101 Minutes | Director John Wells

Burnt has a screenplay by Steven Knight, the creator of Peaky Blinders, one of the best TV shows out there. Here, there’s little evidence that the man who wrote “Dirty Pretty Things”, “Pawn Sacrifice” and directed the extraordinary “Locke” among other exciting credits was involved. Directed by John Wells, Burnt is a film that serves the MasterChef generation with the kind of under cooked food that would make Gordon Ramsay flip the mad fury switch that’s made him excitingly popular. I promise not to bore you with more of these kitchen and food metaphors.

Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper), is a destructive genius chef with three rules – no drugs, no women and no booze. He has been off the rich cooking establishments for 2 and a half years, after having run away from Paris, trying to resurrect his life. After shucking a million oysters in New Orleans as penance, Adam heads to London to get his third Michelin star restaurant even though he doesn’t have a restaurant or a place to cook. He ends up at his friend, Little Tony’s(Daniel Brühl) hotel and well, he gets his restaurant.

London is a really small city by the way things work in this film. At every corner, Adam meets an old friend or foe, whom he either recruits or antagonises further with his asshole image. He sleeps at a young chef’s house for free, recruits chefs who are just out of jail(again, an old friend), challenges an old foe, Reece(Matthew Rhys) announcing his return and through a couple of scenes makes us realise he was once a sex God capable of making lesbians have sex with him. Knight’s screenplay in the first act behaves like Ocean’s 11, but without the awareness or the comedy that comes with Clooney recruiting his old friends and conmen.

For a film about a destructive genius, it seriously doesn’t have the neurosis and goofiness that makes destructive geniuses fun to watch. The only time the movie has some goofiness in it is when Emma Thompson, playing a psychiatrist, shares screen space with Cooper. She needles him to open up, he sparks up. The only other times we have some fun here is when Helene(Sienna Miller) starts taking over Adam’s kitchen and slowly, his life. It reminds one of “No Reservations”, the 2007 film starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart, especially when Helene’s daughter, Lily, with a palate that would rival a food critic’s enters the frame of things. Thankfully, there is no gooey development where the three start having Sunday picnics. There’s only one image to Cooper and that’s being an asshole. Miller and Cooper are involved in a little taming of the shrew reversal but this is far less and far in between the beautiful images of food being shown. There’s a checklist for a destructive genius movie which Knight has ticked the boxes off. He even throws in some good ideas that include a former lover and mentor but there isn’t any of the craziness or artistry that makes Adam Jones a destructive genius.

burnt-movie-759The poster for “Burnt” reads “Never underestimate a man with everything to lose”. If everything a sexy bod, then I must say, it is astonishing that a sexy bod is considered everything because there is little evidence that Adam Jones has anything else in this film.

There really haven’t been films about maverick chefs or films dealing with the Kitchen Confidential world described by Anthony Bourdain. Burnt is the closest we have come to see the inner workings of a gourmet chef’s life but Knight’s screenplay and Wells’ direction don’t pack any punch. It is let down, especially considering how well acted the film is. Alicia Vikander steal the show with her cameo. The no-fuss Miller is a welcome change. The star of the show, Bradley Cooper is equally terrific but apart from the plating, nothing here is of the standards these people and we deserve. There’s a little scenario of Tony being in love with Adam Jones and staring at his bedroom ready body longingly. Unfortunately for us, we are only left longing for a better film about the people who make those 40 euro dishes.

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