Saturday 18 May 2019

Movie Review: Burnt (2015)

A drama set in the world of haute cuisine, Burnt is an overcooked attempt to stage a high-stakes thriller in the kitchen.

Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) was once a top chef in Paris, but lost everything due to a life of excess and addictions. After three years of self-imposed exile to clean up his life, he heads to London to reestablish his reputation. He conspires with food critic Simone (Uma Thurman) to secure the chef role at the prestigious hotel restaurant of his former partner Tony Balerdi (Daniel Brühl), although Tony ensures Adam stays clean through weekly check-ups with Dr. Rosshilde (Emma Thompson).

Adam hires a kitchen team from among his former associates, including Michel (Omar Sy) and Max (Riccardo Scamarcio). And after some effort he convinces the promising Helene Sweeney (Sienna Miller) to join his crew. Adam renews his rivalry with chef Montgomery Reece (Matthew Rhys) and obsessively drives his staff in pursuit of the elusive three-star Michelin Guide rating.

Almost everything about Burnt is overdone. Adam Jones is an unlikeable character ripped from cheap action thrillers, leather-jacketed and obsessive about getting his revenge on a world that chewed him up and spit him out. Whether he does or does not achieve his third Michelin star means everything to him, but director John Wells, filming a Steven Knight script, is very far from making anyone else care.

A large part of the problem is the unironic setting within the tony world of unaffordable uppity restaurants where food critics opine about the minutiae of whether the scallops stayed on the fire for seven seconds too long. And Wells does not help his cause by overheating all the emotions to child tantrum levels, then plastering the film from start to end with kitchen staff shouting at each other and close-up shots of food being prepared and served. To suit the milieu Cooper does his best foul-mouthed impression of Gordon Ramsey on a gnarly day.

Jones' background and intriguing sexual preferences, including a complex relationship with Tony, are promising topics when touched upon, and the film would have greatly benefited by better exploring the man outside the kitchen.

Instead, Burnt loudly smashes the promising dishes against the wall and settles for 100 minutes of food porn.

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