Bradley Cooper: I Wanted to Be a Chef

30 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Burnt’ review: Bradley Cooper almost saves undercooked chef drama.

It almost seems like the great recipe – a movie about a chef trying to right a wrong, with various shots of delicious food, and the immensely likable Bradley Cooper as the chef in question, written by Steve Knight who has been responsible for some of the best indies over the past few years.Coming off last year’s smash hit “American Sniper” and the disaster “Aloha,” Bradley Cooper trades a high-powered rifle and military togs for chef’s knives and a toque in “Burnt,” a histrionic, not-very-convincing drama about the food world’s formerly hottest chef turned recovering drug addict who is taking a shot at redemption.

Adam Jones, played by Bradley Cooper, was a Michelin two-star chef in Paris until alcohol, drugs and loathsome behavior — stealing methadone from a dying sous chef, bedding and bailing on female colleagues, and releasing rats into a competitor’s new restaurant and then calling the health inspector — cost him his job and reputation. It’s a high-stakes world where the food is not only made for savoring, if extraordinary enough in taste and style, it has the potential to catapult a chef into superstardom. Directed by John Wells (“August: Osage County”) and scripted by the usually reliable Steven Knight (“Locke,” “Eastern Promises”), “Burnt” begins when Cooper’s ex-master Adam Jones arrives in London from Paris, where he has burned his bridges, and tries to assemble a new team to transform a hotel’s restaurant run by his ex-friend and co-worker Tony (Daniel Bruhl) into London’s most exclusive place to eat.

That’s the takeaway from this film about a badly behaved celebrity chef seeking his third Michelin star — though don’t expect anything as ordinary as an omelette here. Among the disciples Adam recruits are beautiful single mother and sous-chef Helene (Sienna Miller), former rival Michel (Omar Sy, “The Intouchables”), ex-convict Max (Riccardo Scamarcio) and struggling Brit novice David (Sam Keeley). Despite his epic collapse, up-and-comers are in awe — “If you’re a chef, he’s like the Rolling Stones” — and competitors are rattled to their core. At the movie’s opening, he’s two years clean from the drugs, alcohol, inadvisable sex and general bad behavior that got him ousted from a Paris restaurant and pretty much blackballed in the industry. Masterchef already tells us that courtesy and cuisine rarely mix, with the steam sizzling off cooking stations barely matching that let off by chefs encountering a dish they don’t life.

When Jones was at the top of his game, he walked over far too many people — some of whom are not willing to forget what he put them through when all he cared about were his own selfish interests. Cooper so much that they will tolerate his character’s dictatorial behavior, hurling of insults and food plates in the kitchen, and arrogance, which Adam insists is necessary to be a world-class chef. Masterchef and other cooking shows also tell us that kitchens are pressure cookers, with orders being thrown about as frequently as the meat to be cooked. But while he manages to stay away from the temptations that plague him, he’s still himself: A Jobs-level jerk who mistreats old friends, throws kitchen tantrums (along with many plates of food) and yells at everyone who works for him. Bread crumbs, or locally sourced ingredients, are dropped along the path, paving the way for confrontations, reconciliations and the redemption you know or hope is coming.

What they don’t tell us is that plates, chairs, pans are also up for sacrifice in the course of a celebrity chef’s day out, particularly when staring down a counterpart. Things don’t go as smoothly as expected with his ego still at boiling point, alcohol and drugs just a stone throws distance away, and a huge debt to pay. Adam is portrayed throughout the film as this flawed genius, yet we never know why he is like that because of the incredibly poor character development. Cooper’s intensity, his chemistry with “American Sniper” co-star Sienna Miller and the portrait of the exhausting life in the chaotic, overheated kitchen where the only acceptable answer to a request or order is “Yes, chef!” “Burnt” was shot in some top restaurants and kitchens in London, and used celebrity chefs Marcus Wareing and Mario Batali as consultants.

Still, and that’s the film’s weakest link, Bradley Cooper’s Adam ‘The Notorious’ Jones gets barely a stain on his apron as he marches towards cooking-dom’s ultimate goal. Actors Daniel Bruhl, Emma Thompson, Omar Sy, Matthew Rhys, Alicia Vikander and Uma Thurman turn up in supporting roles, and so does the food, a parade of authentically prepared and exquisitely styled main courses and garnishes that pass in a blur.

Yes there are ghosts to be slayed, debts to be paid, beatings to be had, but however much he insults and assails, a helping hand and at least three people in love with him are never too far away. There are also other star chefs who have their own beef with Jones, including the temperamental Reece who feels he has a lot to lose with Jones’ return to the scene.

To that end, he hires a motley crew of his old pals and frenemys, and adds a plucky, gifted sous chef (Sienna Miller), who also happens to be beautiful and deeply empathetic. There are very few actors who can pull off being likable despite playing an unlikable character, and Cooper is no Robert Downey Jr to make that shtick work in his favour. Cardiff-born Matthew Rhys is quite good as Adam’s rival chef. “It Girl” Alicia Vikander comes and goes as Adam’s ex-girlfriend and the daughter of his French mentor.

Cooper, who has done this charming bad-boy thing before, is as charismatic as ever, and together he and Miller find some fresh rhythms and undercurrents in the same-old, same-old romantic set up. The rest is consistent with what to expect from a film about wayward talent and redemption, with one lady love thrown in — even though the film itself proclaims that “consistency is death”. This kitchen serves those precious, exacting, tiny compositions of pretty food, with flowers scattered on the plate and little dots of sauce decorating it. When you can guess the ending twenty minutes into the film, you expect something different in the journey towards it, but all you get are the same generic tropes. They may also know whether the frenetic, intense working atmosphere Wells orchestrates here, with collisions and mishaps and tantrums galore, resembles any real restaurant kitchen.

There is awful behaviour and lot of hand-wringing over things left unattended for a minute — but we are expected to ignore the first for the second. And there are some instructive episodes about how Michelin men come to judge, unexpected and unannounced, how cooking stations are soaped and scrubbed, as well as how food at a restaurant should make you “stop eating” and, on the other hand, “sick with longing”.

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