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Burnt Review: Send This Dish Back to the Kitchen

By Julian Roman — October 30th, 2015

Burnt fails utterly in its primary objective. There wasn't a second in this film where I believed Bradley Cooper was an elite, Michelin starred chef. He's a diva, curses at a lot of people, and tosses plates with enough invective to make Gordon Ramsey proud. The difference is that Burnt, with its top tier cast and script by Steven Knight (Eastern Promises), shouldn't be emulating bad reality television. If the supposed culinary greatness of the protagonist fails to be established, then the ancillary characters seem foolish putting up with his abuse. Burnt needs to be sent back to the kitchen for better ingredients.

Bradley Cooper stars as Adam Jones, a rock star chef who lost everything to drug addiction and avarice. After a self imposed exile in New Orleans shucking a million oysters, he flies to London to reclaim his past glory. Jones hits up a wealthy scion and former colleague (Daniel Brühl) for the funds to open his new restaurant. Steals a beautiful and promising sous chef (Sienna Miller) from a competitor. Then convinces his former best friend (Omar Sy) to join him, even though he destroyed his pal's career. The journey back hits a major snag when Parisian drug dealers come collecting for unpaid debts.

The premise of Burnt has Adam Jones covered in fairy dust and sparkles. He was such an innovative, bad ass chef, that despite his despicable past deeds; everyone wants to be on the Jones train to redemption. That's entirely plausible. Genius is often difficult to deal with, but understood and coddled. Burnt has a ton of back story, but it never establishes what made Adam Jones so special. What did he do? What was his method? What earth shattering cuisine did he concoct to demand such respect? His skill is constantly alluded to, but never defined. This lack of exposition, and the way Cooper plays Jones, makes the character very difficult to root for.

Burnt offers no insight into the world of fine dining. What we get is a caricature of the kitchen. Raging egos, tyrannical behavior, lots of shuffling around with dainty, plated delights popping up out of nowhere. We needed to see a love affair with food. Great films about chefs or cooking shines the spotlight on gastronomy. Audiences should be aching with hunger after sitting through this movie. I couldn't wait to have a melted cheese Cuban sandwich after watching Chef. Sadly, this is not the case in Burnt.

Burnt is a complete letdown. The ensemble cast and screenwriter had me expecting a much better effort. I think the back story of Adam Jones epic fall from grace would have been a more interesting film to see. Instead we get a lot of yelling, unbelievable characters, and worst of all, no titillating food to drool over.

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