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
There’s a space for a really good cooking movie, but this one didn’t seem to be it.
I think you’re right. There were a couple that came out over the last few years (French films as I recall) that were better than this one but still didn’t quite nail it. As you said, there is still a good story to tell.
Very fair review. I enjoyed watching some of Cooper’s outbursts, as well as tried to feel enthusiastic about the plot, but gave up somewhere half-way-through the movie.
I can see why. Too much of the personal drama simple doesn’t work.
Seems to be the general consensus for this one – a bit meh all round.
Oh well, we can always head back on over to Chef if we want a pretty good food movie 😛 After we eat, that is.
And there was a pretty decent in called Haute Cuisine that came out a few years ago. Ever see that one? Not great but better than this one.
I haven’t, but I will give it a look if I come across it!
Do that. Again, far from perfect but entertaining.
I liked it more than others seem to, maybe because I saw Truth before it which was worse and was so hell bent on pushing the liberal agenda on the viewer. I thought Cooper was great here, the movie had good energy and the ending song was about 100 times better than every single Oscar nominated one this year
I thought Cooper was pretty good as well. A bit of a surprise. I think the material lets him down at times.
I’ve intentionally put off Truth. You’ve helped me push it back even further!
I agree with you wholeheartedly Keith! I was really looking forward to this one too. I guess I was hoping for something similar to Chef!
It spins its wheels every time it steps out of the kitchen. That is what ultimately brings it down for me. It seems like there is a good story there somewhere.
I had already been put off this by a newspaper review, but your review is the final nail in the coffin, even with 2.5 stars. Sounds like a very patchy affair and I don’t like the sound of the stunt casting – sounds like quite a lot of actors don’t really get much screen time, which makes me wonder what the point is, unless it’s related to securing funding. How long do Thurman, Vikander and Thompson appear for, out of interest?
Thompson has a fair amount but not much. Thurman and Vikander are tiny bit parts. Not much to them at all.
A for the movie, you won’t be missing a thing. It does itself no favors. Had potential but lived up to none of it.
I didn’t mind Burnt so much. It’s not a great film. But I got a kick out of Bradley Cooper playing a combustible chef, again. Just as he did when he played Anthony Bourdain in the short-lived Kitchen Confidential. Basically the same character! Made me lol. It was predictable and a superficial film. But something I don’t mind watching just to while away a couple of hours.
I think that’s why I have it a straight middle-of-the-road score. You’re right, it’s not a bad way to spend two hours, but it also wasn’t anything I will probably go back and see again.
passing on this one. Chef took care of my cuisine movie fix for a long time. nice review, bro!
Thanks man. Trust me, you aren’t missing much.