Burnt (2015)

  • Time: 100 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Drama
  • Director: John Wells
  • Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Omar Sy, Daniel Brühl, Uma Thurman


Chef Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) had it all – and lost it. A two-star Michelin rockstar with the bad habits to match, the former enfant terrible of the Paris restaurant scene did everything different every time out, and only ever cared about the thrill of creating explosions of taste. To land his own kitchen and that third elusive Michelin star though, he’ll need the best of the best on his side, including the beautiful Helene (Sienna Miller).


  • Burnt (my latest review) is well done. There I said it. Let’s get all the puns out of the way shall we. With fast cutting that will make your head spin, close-ups of food that will cause your mouth to water (even though I noshed right before a viewing, I still had a hearty appetite), and a showcase for what I believe to be the best performance of Bradley Cooper’s career, this 2015 release is only the third foodie flick I’ve seen. No Reservations and Chef are the other two and they’re mere child’s play in comparison.

    At times overdramatic as well as borderline predictable, Burnt is nevertheless, highly effectual. This is due to the speedy direction of John wells and an enormous attention to detail. You wanna see the distance measured between forks on a table setting? Oh you’ll get that. You want to witness cooks being unsanitary by putting their hands in people’s food for taste testings? You’ll get that too. You wanna see a culinary staff clean the bejesus out of a kitchen (by scrubbing tables till their hands fall off)? You’ll get that as well. Finally, do you have a taste for noticing lead Bradley Cooper making an employee apologize to a piece of fish (for not cooking it well enough)? That happens about a half hour in. Ultimately, Burnt is the be-all, end-all of restaurateur pics. Along with its eccentricities baited towards a dinner service, the eateries featured here are so sterile and white walled, it’s as if Chili’s, T.G.I. Fridays, and Ruth’s Chris Steak House never even existed.

    Shot at a whirlwind running time of just over 100 minutes, Burnt registers former drug addict/cooking aficionado, Adam Jones (Cooper). He lost a restaurant years ago due to some messed up behavior (he also planted rats in another chef’s sit down spot while calling the health inspector at the same time). After punishing himself by shucking oysters back in the states (1,000,000 to be exact), Jones then ventures to Europe once again, this time sober and clean. He needs to get a crew together for a comeback tour. He enlists his former head waiter (Daniel Bruhl as Tony), an up-and-coming female cook (Sienna Miller as Helene), a distant rival cook (French actor Omar Sy as Michel), and a paroled criminal (Riccardo Scamarcio as Max) to open up a London hotbed with his name on the title. Bradley Cooper who’s in pretty much everything theses days, is all will as Jones. With a cocksure way about him, various enemies, and very little in pocket change, his Adam is still able to get the whole world on his side. Jones doesn’t like people, he doesn’t normally count on them, and he’s kind of an a-hole. His heightened intelligence about food though turns the beat around (this includes his acquaintances who despise him). The first hour of the film displays this notion and it’s the strongest section. Burnt unfortunately starts to bog down towards the end but everything that happened past tense, washes away the shortcomings.

    All in all, the look of this vehicle is slick and clean. The screenplay by Steven Knight (he wrote and directed 2013’s Locke) is juicy in that it deals with themes of anger, absolution, irony, and alienation. In terms of casting, Bradley Cooper really brings to life the character of an unsound, head chef (this is based on all the Food Network shows I tend to watch). The role of Adam Jones really caters to his fast-talking, manneristic style of delivering lines. About a quarter of the way in, this messy character study acknowledges that Jones is striving to get his third Michelin Star (the mark of excellence given to only a few European eating establishments). Heck, I’ll just bite and give Burnt about three and a half of them. Bon appetit!

    Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars

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  • Quickie Review:

    Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) is a gifted chef who ruined his life and career with drugs and alcohol. Determined to get set his life and career ambitions straight, he returns to London to lead his kitchen to Michelin star status. Burnt is packed with talented actors such as Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, and Daniel Brühl. A lot of the weight of the movie is on their shoulders, unfortunately they could not carry it all the way through. The main problem is the beats the movie goes through are largely predictable. Quality performances make Burnt an acceptable, decent film, albeit a forgettable one.

    Full Review:

    Was I excited for Burnt? Honestly, not really. Then again looking at the cast I thought you couldn’t go wrong to give this movie a chance. After all last year I saw Chef another foodie related drama that I happen to really like. I also like the TV show Hell’s Kitchen, so any flair of Gordon Ramsay should be fun.

    Actually Bradley Cooper ended up being more like Gordon Ramsay than I expected. He is a hot head, striving for perfection, and if you do anything wrong, there’s going to be a huge mess of broken plates to clean up. As brilliant of a chef as Jones may be, his weakness in the kitchen is that he is old school. So seeing him fit back into the changed world of high class cuisine was interesting. Sienna Miller was also a good addition, as she’s the only one who is able to stand up to the head chef. This led to some interesting face-offs in difference of opinions. For me, the best of the three main cast was Daniel Brühl. This actor deserves more praise than he receives. His portrayal of the character is subtle, his actions are motivated by love but he never draws focus to it. To him he is just doing favour or a job, nothing more. In many ways that made him feel more real of a person than any other character in the film.

    That being said, I couldn’t really care for the character development for long because I knew exactly where everyone was going to end up being. This includes the obligatory love story, the sweet moment with a kid, and the acceptance of responsibilities of a leader. As in any typical story structure there has to be a crisis. However, in this film that crisis occurs way too abruptly. I’ll admit that in that point in the story the moment was very effective, but then every character conveniently changes to their perfect selves… I didn’t see anything before that said these people were on their way to better themselves, and all that was needed was a catalyst. In other words, things happen in this movie not because it’s a coherent flow to the story, but because it must fit the typical story structure of beginning, middle, climax, and resolution. So there all these pieces to the movie that are good on their own, but don’t fit well together.

    By no means do I hate this movie. It is sufficient. If you are looking for some good performances with great looking food being prepared by great looking people, you couldn’t ask for anything more perfect. On the other hand if you require a little more meat to the bone (substance to the story), you are better off waiting.

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  • Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) stops dead in his tracks at the sight of former flame Anne Marie. And why not? Anne Marie is played by the arrestingly lovely Alicia Vikander, who supplies more depth of feeling in her two fleeting scenes than the rest of the film possesses. There’s another scene, also late in the film, between Adam and longtime friend and maitre d’, Tony (Daniel Brühl), that provides more of a sexual frisson than the conventional romance between Adam and his headstrong chef de partie, Helene (Sienna Miller). Both scenes pinpoint exactly where the film goes wrong: Burnt is at its best when it stops telling us about Adam and simply lets him interact with the other characters.

    The normally reliable screenwriter Steven Knight isolates his protagonist for most of the movie. It’s deliberate, to be sure, but when you have a character that throws temper tantrums because perfection has not been achieved and appears hellbent on antagonising everyone around him, you run the danger of alienating your audience’s affection and interest. Affection is not essential, but interest is paramount. Casting Cooper is a precautionary and preventive measure, though even his boundless charisma fights hard to overcome risible clunkers like, “I sentenced myself to hard labour shucking oysters, and today is the last day of my penance.”

    Adam has swaggered into London after several years of self-imposed exile in New Orleans. He’s determined to redeem himself, specifically the self who slept with every woman, abused every substance and burned every bridge during his bad boy days in Paris. His old friends and rivals are shocked that he’s even alive and are more than skeptical when he proclaims his intention to conquer the city’s restaurant scene and earn his third Michelin star in the process. He goes about gathering his team, the script introducing us to several characters, most of whom are almost immediately discarded to the sidelines. There’s old mate Michel (Omar Sy), who’s willing to overlook Adam’s past wrongdoings in order to help him achieve his quest; ex-con Max (Riccardo Scamarcio); green under the gills David (Sam Keeley), and single mother Helene, whose drive and ambition matches Adam’s.

    Miller is very good as Helene, and she and American Sniper co-star Cooper engage in a pas de deux that features equal parts tension and romance. Nonetheless, the relationship is fairly by-the-numbers and the least interesting, which is unfortunate as it’s the only connection that is fostered for most of the film. The intriguing strands that thread Adam to Anne Marie, Tony or rival Reece (Matthew Rhys) are never strengthened, yet these are the most potent in the film. It also wastes the talent involved, but when the film reduces the likes of Emma Thompson and Uma Thurman to unnecessary cameos, it seems relatively par for the course.

    Director John Wells’ restlessly roving camera records the swirl of activity in the kitchen and the precisely composed plates of mouthwatering delights are beautifully presented by cinematographer Adriano Goldman. The script could have used more pruning – there is too much going on and most of it (thugs keep showing up to collect on Adam’s past debts, his therapy sessions with Thompson’s Dr. Rosshilde) fails to add to the core story.

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  • “To get even one Michelin star, you have to be like Luke Skywalker.
    To get two, you have to be… whoever Alec Guinness was.
    But if you manage to get three… You’re Yoda.
    Well, what if he’s Darth Vader?”

    Adam Jones (Bradley “American Sniper” Cooper) once burned his fingers by living a fairly dissolute life, filled with alcohol, women and drugs. As a top chef his primary concern is to create a perfectly cooked and not burnt exquisite dish. And once more he has that burning desire to get a third Michelin star with his new restaurant in London. Three propositions that perfectly fit with the movie title.

    Perhaps you start to sigh in a frustrated way after reading the synopsis. At least I did after I found out it was again about a renowned chef. But then I was thinking about the movie “Chef”. It wasn’t so bad. So I gave “Burnt” the benefit of the doubt. My opinion about cooking programs generally hasn’t changed a bit. As I already explained in my review of “Chef” : “I’m sick and tired of hearing the terminology like baking, flaming, roasting, steaming, filleting, Bain-Marie, stewing, poaching, ragout, caramelize and the hype-word in recent years “cuisson”. I’m not sick of seeing those plates with tasty food, but the oversupply of television programs with people cooking enthusiastically”. Just explore your television channels on an average night and before you know it some would-be Jamie Oliver pops up while waving dangerously with a spoon.

    Cooking has become an art and world-renowned master chefs are being adored in a similar way as famous rock stars. They are showered with praises, have tons of salivating fans who marvel at the delicacies created by their idol and became mega-rich with their published cookbooks and television programs. And of course a breakthrough with movies was inevitable. So now it’s just waiting for the first dance hit sung by such an important “cuisinier” while shaking his cholesterol-rich body on the dance-floor. As in “Chef” we are treated with delicious dishes that look like real works of art. The occasions that wonderful dinners are prepped, we see all kind of colorful dishes as a set of photos. One looking tastier than the other. And this at a pace that can compete with the pace of some dialogs. At those times, I thought this film was very amusing and interesting to follow. The witty and sometimes pretty funny dialogs, interspersed with magnificent dishes. But honestly I must admit (the accusation “cultural barbarian” will be used against me) that my taste buds were very enthusiastic at the sight of that juicy hamburger at a fast food restaurant.

    For the female viewers, there’s also the advantage in the form of Bradley Cooper, who looks as appetizing as his own dishes. I’m 100% straight (believe me), but I can understand that women (even lesbian) could succumb to his charms. His lovely smile, those bright deep blue eyes and his uninhibited behavior. A smooth talker with a tough look. And he’s also great in the kitchen. It’s obvious that many women would like to offer themselves as dessert. And preferably with a bit of whipped cream. Fair is fair, Cooper played a decent role. As calm and laid-back as he was in “American Sniper”, so hot-tempered and arrogant he’s in “Burnt”. Sienna Miller wasn’t overwhelmed and managed to keep herself standing next to Cooper. But especially Daniel Brühl was brilliant as Adam’s old friend. There was also a tiny part played by Emma Thompson and Uma Thurman.

    A dazzling film filled with talented actors and actresses. That sounds promising and guarantees an energetic film. Only this film can’t escape the phenomenon of superficiality. It’s all a bit too predictable and clichéd. You automatically feel which direction it will go. As intense as it was in to the kitchen early in the film, so cozy and homey it ends. They could have ended this film with a large campfire while they were singing “With a little help from my friends” and meanwhile embracing each other amicably. And what did happen in Paris? You can only guess because they stay rather vague about that. I feel it went from a high culinary, inventive dish to a dull, everyday dish. And yet I found it a brilliant film in an inexplicable way. But still a caution: make sure you have eaten before you watch this film, because otherwise you are plundering your fridge after wards.

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  • Perfection is unattainable. As long as human nature and the human body are imperfect and the world insists on throwing us curve balls at random moments, perfection will remain a myth. Tell that to Adam Jones, the central character in the comedy-drama “Burnt” (R, 1:41). Jones is a world-class chef who relentlessly pursues perfection in his food, if not in his personal life, and demands it from others as well. What Jones never seems to realize is, besides the concept of perfection being a fantasy, it’s subjectively judged. Jones is arrogant enough to think that he knows what perfection is and that he can get there. That also makes him a narcissist. In addition, he fails to apply his ideal of perfection to his personal life, even while he holds others to a higher standard than he holds himself. That also makes him a hypocrite. If, at this point, you think you’d enjoy watching such a character dominate a feature film, then read on.

    At the beginning of this story, American-born chef Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) is a fallen idol. He tells us through an opening narration that his bad habits with drugs, alcohol and women cost him his Paris restaurant. He also callously damaged the careers and reputations of others in the process. All this led to him having to leave Europe entirely. He works in New Orleans shucking oysters until he feels that he has completed his “penance” and is ready to go back across the pond. Apparently believing that there are no restaurants here in the colonies worthy of his talents, he goes to London with the intent of getting another restaurant for himself and achieving his ultimate goal of earning 3 out of 3 stars from Europe’s “Michelin Red Guide”. Jones has laid the groundwork for his comeback by going two years without the vices that nearly ruined his life, but his talents – and his arrogance – are still very much intact.

    In London, Jones gets reacquainted with former colleagues (who apparently all had to leave Paris after he did and all settled in London for some reason) and then he sets his plan into motion. He uses a combination of dirty tricks and persuasion to gain control of a restaurant now owned by his restaurant’s old maître d’ (Daniel Brühl), hire previous colleagues Michel and Max (Omar Sy and Riccardo Scamarcio), and add a young talent (Sam Keeley) and the beautiful and talented Helene (Sienna Miller, who played the wife of Cooper’s character in 2014’s “American Sniper”). Jones’ remodeled restaurant opens, but he feels the evening wasn’t perfect so he throws plates, then yells at, insults and even lays his hands on cooks who work for him. As he goes about the business of RE-launching the restaurant, he must learn to update his techniques a bit and depend more on his team. In his personal life, he must face the young woman (Alicia Vikander) whose heart he broke in Paris, another former co-worker (Matthew Rhys) who is still angry at Jones for his Paris behavior and who now runs a rival restaurant, a therapist (Emma Thompson) whom his financiers require that he meet with regularly and, last but certainly not least, drug dealers from Paris to whom he still owes a large sum of money for the poor choices of his past. All things considered, Jones has a lot to overcome if his restaurant is to earn that third Michelin star.

    This movie is one Bradley Cooper beyond an “art house” film. Not to disrespect art house films. Some of the best theatrical surprises go relatively unseen in those venues. And that fate would have likely befallen this movie, were it not for Bradley Cooper’s star power, but that’s not enough of a reason to see the film. As great as Cooper is and as solid as the rest of the performances are, in the end, “Burnt” is merely a foodie’s fantasy populated by mostly unlikeable characters learning valid, but obvious life lessons. (Drugs and alcohol can ruin your life. Got it. Owing a lot of money to bad people is a bad idea. Roger. Teamwork is important. No argument here. Everyone deserves a second chance. Absolutely.) The problem with this movie is the filmmakers seem to think that Movie Fans need 101 minutes to get these points – and we won’t mind sitting through a niche movie with mean, selfish and arrogant characters willing to make themselves and each other miserable while pursuing the fantasy of perfection.

    If I want to be around someone who will settle for nothing less than perfection, I’ll get back together with my previous spouse. If I want to experience people yelling at each other, I’ll sit back and remember my next door neighbors from my childhood, or the couple who lived on the other side of the wall when I was in one of my first apartments. If I want to watch arrogant perfectionism for almost two hours, I’ll research or write one of my movie reviews in front of a mirror. None of those things would cost me any money, or any more time than I chose to spend in such unpleasant situations. I did, however, choose to spend my time and money at a theater showing this movie. It looks like I was the one who was burnt. Jones scolds his cooks by saying “if it’s not perfect, we throw it out.” Well, this movie is far from perfect, but I have more respect for the best efforts of others than Jones does. I can’t give this drama set in a restaurant kitchen the recommendation it desires, but that doesn’t mean I have to trash it either. “C”

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