Can’t stand the heat
It’s hard to root for Bradly Cooper’s hothead chef
There’s no doubt that Bradley Cooper goes all-in for Burnt, a passion project in which the actor plays a chef psychotically determined to get his third Michelin star. Too bad it’s in service of a character who’s a totally unlikeable prick.
After going sober for more than two years and shucking a million oysters as penance for his previous drug-induced bad behavior, Adam Jones (Cooper) heads to Paris, intent upon regaining his status as a legendary chef and attaining that hallowed “third star” status.
He starts his quest by terrorizing restaurant owner Tony (Daniel Brühl), a former friend turned enemy who had a crush on him but now hates him. Jones sets up a scenario with a food critic (Uma Thurman) that would probably get most people arrested for fraud, but in the movies it gets him control of a kitchen. Jones stocks it with a motley crew of cooks, including Michel (Omar Sy), a fellow chef he double-crossed years earlier by setting rats loose in his new restaurant, and David (Sam Keeley) a young up-and-comer who idolizes Jones and allows him to stay at his apartment.
Best among his recruits is Helene (the always interesting Sienna Miller), another hotshot chef whom Jones intimidates and basically forces to work with him. Admittedly, it’s cool to see Cooper and Miller reteam after their successful venture as husband and wife in American Sniper. Their natural chemistry is one of the better things about the movie.
What doesn’t work is the dour tone and supreme douchiness of Jones, ultimately leading to a film that is a task to watch. Director John Wells (August: Osage County) finds little moments of humor in the story that wind up being quite refreshing. But the film’s tone is all over the place. One second it’s a kitchen comedy and the next it’s an ineffective story about some asshole’s struggle with sobriety. It never comes together as a whole.
Wells does a decent job of capturing the intensity of the level of high-octane kitchen required to deliver perfect dishes all night, although, oddly, there is very little focus on the actual food they are serving. The cast is convincing (Cooper boasts some decent knife dexterity) as cooks, and the kitchen scenes crackle with life. Out of the kitchen, not so much.
Clichés abound as Jones is terrorized by drug dealers seeking payment on old debts and crosstown chefs looking to end his quest. A scene where Jones falls off the wagon is overwrought, as is his meeting with a past junkie girlfriend.
Miller is good as the chef who will, undoubtedly, become a Jones love interest. Problem here is that her character is far more interesting than Jones’. Burnt might’ve been a better movie had it been her story with Jones as a supporting player. A full movie of Cooper’s Jones proves to be a tad much.