Tuesday, October 20, 2015

“Burnt”– Movie Review



This week, I attended a New York Times Film Club screening for the New York City premiere of the new comedy-drama “Burnt” starring Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller.


When a highly-regarded chef loses his job through drug abuse, he tries to regain his standing with a new restaurant – but will his bad behavior resurface before he’ll have a chance to recover his former glory?



There was a time when Chef Adam Jones (Cooper) had it all.  Considered one of the world’s best, he earned two Michelin stars at a Paris restaurant.  Unfortunately, he was doomed by his own successes as well as his own excesses; with his ego inflated, Jones suddenly felt he could do no wrong and wound up throwing his career away when he pursued a path of drug usage.  Finally emerging at the end of that dark period, Jones believed he needed to punish himself for all of the horror he inflicted on friends and co-workers, so he spent a three year period of self-exile from working as a chef. 

After serving his penance, Jones travels to London to look up Tony (Daniel Brühl), who ran the restaurant in Paris where Jones gained his notoriety.  Still harboring some bad feelings towards Jones, Tony is understandably displeased when his former star chef shows up to let him know he’s ready for a comeback – which he announces will be at Tony’s restaurant!  Although Tony suspects Jones still has something left, he insists that in order to work in his kitchen, Jones must undergo regular monitoring by a doctor (Emma Thompson) to ensure he’s staying clean. 

Now on his way back, Jones finds he must assemble a talented team of cooks to work behind him; to do so, he must recruit people from varied and unlikely sources:  one person is poached from another restaurant, one is bailed out of jail and another has to be coaxed after his own restaurant was sabotaged by Jones.  Among those is a gifted saucier named Helene (Miller), a single mother who immediately locks horns with Jones in the kitchen.  Once it seems Jones finally has it all together, will he be able to earn his third Michelin star or will he ultimately do himself in by returning to his old ways?


For food porn enthusiasts, be advised if you intend on seeing “Burnt”, it’s best to wear your raincoat – the best part of the movie is the adulatory way in which the food is photographed.  If you don’t feel hungry by the final frame, then clearly, you haven’t been paying attention.  Sad to say the look of the food – from the ingredients, to cooking to plating – is just about the only part of the film that’s praiseworthy.  The rest is rather drab and ordinary with some extremely predictable scenes that only serve to inflict further damage on a movie with an anti-climactic conclusion.

As far as the performances are concerned, the entire cast must be commended for having been trained on cooking; this apparently can be attributed to Gordon Ramsay, who taught the actors in preparation for their roles – he also got an Executive Producer credit for his efforts.  The film does not use cutaways when the cooks are chopping, stirring or plating food – it is clearly the actors themselves that are performing these tasks quite admirably.  While the character of Jones seems based on Ramsay for his notorious temper in the kitchen, the story seems closer to Anthony Bourdain in “Kitchen Confidential”. 

“Burnt” will likely not be remembered as one of Cooper’s best films or most memorable performances; he seems desperately trying to make the character appear more interesting than he really comes across as being in the motion picture.  Assessing how realistic the restaurant portions of the movie are may be better left to people who have experience in that profession; as for the remainder of “Burnt”, precious little bears much in the way of verisimilitude.  Cooper’s charming demeanor and blue eyes only take him so far in “Burnt”. 


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