There’s nothing worse than being nagged to go to watch a film in the cinema that you have no interest in whatsoever, but it’s a sacrifice that all of us have made at some point or another in our lives. I had seen the trailer for Burnt, read a few reviews, and was dreading having to sit through it. But, despite the tepid impression I originally had of the film, I left the cinema pleasantly surprised, and more than a bit peckish!
Bradley Cooper stars as Adam Jones, a former two Michelin star chef in Paris, desperate to re-establish himself as a culinary king. When we first meet him, however, he has fallen from grace and is worlds (and thousands of miles) away from his dreams of earning his third star in London. He is in New Orleans, shucking oysters as penance for his sins. After the pressures of the chef profession caused him to spiral into a self-destructive life of drug addiction and general debauchery, he has made plenty of enemies through his dirty trick and racked up a dangerous amount of debt.
He travels to London with the intention of tracking down his perfect kitchen team, and with the arrogance and confident charm typical of Bradley Cooper, he pulls it off with ease. Gathering a mixture of old friends, (some who have recently been enemies) along with talented young sous chef Helene (played by Sienna Miller), Adam seems set for success. But there’s plenty of work to do before Adam is satisfied. His obsession with culinary success takes him to the edge of mania sometimes, and as with all Hollywood films, his journey is guaranteed to be packed with high-stakes obstacles and stacks of drama.
His past catches up with him and his Paris drug dealers are a threat on his life. Helene (who predictably becomes Cooper’s love interest), close friend Tony (Daniel Bruhl) and others are concerned for his life, but Adam is more concerned about his kitchen. Old feuds that Adam believed had been smoothed over return to bite him, as his old friend Michel purposefully sabotages what Adam believes are the Michelin star judges, in repayment for Adam infesting his kitchen with rats many years ago. As I’ve pointed out, these typically Hollywood storylines are a bit overboard, but admittedly they contribute to a gripping plot.
Despite Burnt being packed with melodramatic scripting, plot-lines, and occasionally OTT acting, at the core there seems to be a strong depth of character in Adam Jones. We go on a journey with him as he reaches the brink in his determination to become the best chef in the world. Bradley Cooper’s acting is highly emotive and he gives a very strong performance throughout, whether it be his narcissistic arrogant side or his deeply troubled phases. Miller is also a great supporting actress as the highly ambitious single mother, trying to balance her love for cuisine with her family responsibilities. Another entertaining character is Tony, who it is revealed has been in love with Adam for many years, but is happy to watch him succeed from afar.
One thing that struck me as over-used was the whirring, unfocused camera angle used when the kitchen was preparing a meal, the focus darting from one chef to another. Once would have been effective to emulate the fast-paced, and often confusing environment of the kitchen. It was used in every kitchen scene and became more annoying than an original perspective. It would have been nice to see a meal prepared in more detail, which would have been easy to do due to the involvement of professional chefs such as Marcus Wareing. The soundtrack didn’t stand out much either but wasn’t sorely missed.
Overall, Burnt was well worth the watch and was hugely different than what I expected, in a good way. A gripping, albeit melodramatic plot in places. Good character exploration teamed up with good acting. And a Hollywood happy ending, what more could we ask for? A bit more grit, perhaps, but you can’t have it all.