The Food Network, The Cooking Channel, Iron Chef, Chopped and so many other entertainment delicacies have made cooking mainstream and cool. It only follows that a movie dealing with modern culinary sensibilities would have to be hip and sexy. And of course that would require casting Bradley Cooper as not only the best chef on the planet but also the coolest, right? Well wouldn’t you know that is exactly what we get in the fashionable food feature “Burnt”.
To be fair Bradley Cooper isn’t what is wrong with “Burnt”. There are moments where he will undoubtedly have you questioning his casting, but as a whole he manages fine. The trouble is “Burnt” struggles to have a single unique idea of its own. On the broadest level there is an intriguing story here, but the guts of the plot feature a predictable storyline and one overused cliché after another.
Bradley plays an immensely talented but self-destructive chef named Alan Jones. He once worked for one of the finest restaurants in Paris, but his misbehavior not only brought down the restaurant but his fellow chefs and mentor as well. After a self-imposed penance in New Orleans, Alan heads to London to get back on the proverbial horse again. His ultimate goal is to reestablish himself as a top chef and go for his elusive third Michelin star. To do that will require him to mend some old relationships and repair several burned bridges.
The bulk of the film takes place in London where Alan seeks out an old colleague Tony (Daniel Brühl) who was burned by Alan’s antics in Paris. Tony now runs his father’s luxury hotel and reluctantly gives Alan the keys to his restaurant. Alan encourages a couple of old Paris kitchenmates (played by Omar Sy and Riccardo Scamarcio) to come work for him as well as a rival restaurant’s chef Helene (Sienna Miller). She finds Alan repulsive but she needs the money.
Director John Wells works hard to make the kitchen a stylishly cool place. The cooking scenes are frantically shot with constant quick cuts to buttered pans, simmering sauces, crashing dishes, and Gordon Ramsay patterned tantrums. I couldn’t quite buy into some of it but the cooking scenes are definitely strengths. It’s when the movie ventures outside of the kitchen that the flaws become obvious.
“Burnt” throws several supporting characters at us and puts some very talented people behind them. Unfortunately none of them are given enough to do. Aside from Cooper, it’s Brühl and Miller who get the most attention, but it feels as if huge chunks of their stories are missing. Essentially they and every other supporting character serve as plot plugs for the main character’s story. I can’t help but think that some good dramatic potential was wasted.
Despite all of the beautiful cuisine and energetic kitchen chaos, “Burnt” is simply a half-baked redemption tale. While Bradley Cooper isn’t thoroughly convincing as one of the world’s top chefs, his performance is steady and satisfying. The same could be said for the supporting performances. But all of them are let down by a weightless and conventional story that has its moments. Just not enough original ones to set it apart as something unique.
VERDICT – 2.5 STARS