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Burnt (A Movie Review)

Updated: Nov 14, 2021



BURNT (2015)

Starring Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Omar Sy, Daniel Bruhl, Riccardo Scamarcio, Sam Keeley, Alicia Vikander, Matthew Rhys, Uma Thurman, Emma Thompson, Lily James, Sarah Greene, Henry Goodman, Stephen Campbell Moore, Lexie Benbow-Hart, Bo Bene, Elisa Lasowski and Julian Firth.

Screenplay by Steven Knight.

Directed by John Wells.

Distributed by The Weinstein Company.  100 minutes.  Rated R.

The rock-star deification of chefs has been an interesting, somewhat surprising development over the past few decades.  Suddenly it is hugely desirable to find a man who can put together dishes with very small portions, but ones that look lovely, lightly grilled and covered with a black truffle Balsamic glaze on a bed of whole grain risotto.

People binge-watch the Food Network and Hell’s Kitchen, drooling over both the recipes and the chefs’ bad behavior.  Selfish and abrasive seem to be job requirements.  The chefs with inflated senses of narcissistic self-importance worthy of a brain surgeon have become some of the “love-to-hate” favorites of a new world numbed by reality television and Donald Trump.

Adam Jones, the falling chef in the charming but somewhat underdone dramatic comedy Burnt, can check off all of the boxes of a rock-star chef’s most important traits.  Fired in disgrace from his last job?  Check.  Thoughtless, impatient and often cruel to his workers?  Check.  Obsessed with his own menu, to the detriment of anything else in his life?  Check.  A large series of wrecked relationships (work, friendship and romantic) smoldering in his wake?  Check.  Secretly extremely neurotic?  Check.  Recovering from a substance abuse problem?  Check.  Snarky to the extreme?  Check.  Determined to have one last chance to be the shining star of culinary arts?  Check.  Willing and able to do anything, including murder, just to get a three-star review in The Michelin Guide.  Check.

Bradley Cooper had played essentially this same role several years ago – in a much more blatantly comic manner – when he played a fictionalized version of celeb chef Anthony Bourdain in FOX’s short-lived and underrated comedy Kitchen Confidential.

However, his natural charm and charisma saves the character of Jones from becoming a massively unlikable jerk – though the script occasionally conspired against his character reclamation.  We meet Jones when he is at a low ebb, having been fired from his last job in Paris, having lost his staff and being looked at as a has-been in the gourmet world.  In the meantime, his old partner has opened one of the hottest restaurants in London.  Jones has cleaned himself up from his drug and alcohol usage, given up his womanizing ways and is trying to live life on the straight and narrow with just one goal in sight: To open the next it restaurant.

His opportunity comes through Tony (Daniel Bruhl), the rich son of a restaurateur who had lost a mint in Adam’s last venture, however Jones takes advantage of the fact that Tony is in love with him (despite the fact that Jones is not gay) and will do pretty much anything he wants.  However, Tony insists that Jones behave or he will pull the plug and put together his old kitchen staff, adding a new sous chef Helene (Sienna Miller), a young single mother who despises Jones’ self-absorbed charm from the beginning, but eventually comes to respect the artist in his soul.

Burnt has some fine moments and some lovely acting, and the final scene is wonderfully understated and subtle.  It’s all filmed beautifully, and the food looks smashing, but eventually how much you like Burnt will come down to how much you are invested in whether a selfish man can find his personal salvation though a three-star review.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2015 All rights reserved. Posted: October 29, 2015.

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