‘Burnt’ is more half-baked than well-done

29 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Burnt’ is more half-baked than well-done.

This comedy starring Bradley Cooper as a brilliant but troubled chef trying to make a comeback as well as amends for his bad behavior is more like fast food than a gourmet meal. Bradley Cooper revealed how he loved cooking up a storm in his new film because he got to return to his roots at the European premiere of Burnt in Leicester Square. His Adam Jones is apparently a gifted chef, but with his arrogant persona and penchant for loud outbursts, it hardly seems worth finding out, even despite those baby blues. But it seems Hollywood heartthrob’s culinary skills are actually pretty good and have been noticed by one of the UK’s most talented chefs – Marcus Wareing. “Bradley is a great cook.

Jones is so unlikeable that spending 100 minutes with him on screen is as unpleasant as languishing over a bad meal — you just want to kind of walk away and find something better. “Burnt” is further hampered by narrative loose ends, clunky, explanatory dialogue, and a love interest (Siena Miller) who behaves as no real woman would. Written by Steven Knight (”Pawn Sacrifice”) and directed by John Wells (”August: Osage County”), “Burnt” follows Jones’ efforts to restore his cooking career after a bout of bad behavior and return to Michelin Star status. Bradley seems to have embraced this tough role – shedding blood and sweat to play a troubled executive chef who decides to leave Paris and make a name for himself in London. I had the advantage that I’ve been running a restaurant myself — not a Michelin one, far away from that — but still, I can tell how complicated it can be to maintain a good relationship with a chef, to keep a chef happy, to keep a staff around the chef that he’s happy working with.

The job is a penance, Cooper’s Jones explains in voiceover: He was once a promising young chef with the opportunity to run his mentor’s restaurant, only to squander his future with drugs, infidelity and an inflated sense of importance. He runs into Michel (Omar Sy), who awkwardly explains to Jones exactly how he wronged him when they worked together years ago in Paris (don’t they both know this already?). It was a wonderful experience we will never forget and it bonded us.” The American Sniper star, 40, and his co-stars including Sienna, Daniel Bruhl and Omar Sy were given culinary advice from Gordon and Marcus, the latter of whom was a consultant on the movie. So I was familiar with that. (Bruhl and a friend own Bar Raval in Berlin.) Then I was trained as a maître d’ in Marcus Wareing’s restaurant … in London and I could tell it was much worse than in a normal restaurant, the pressure in a Michelin-star kitchen. (Wareing served as an advisor on the film.) And the chef is the boss, yeah. Adam’s superpower is that everyone’s a little bit in love with him, and Cooper’s electric blue eyes and the sarcastic charm he brings to the performance lend themselves well to this.

The maître d’ that I met, a Swiss guy at this restaurant in London, told me that they always have that image of a swan — very quiet and elegant on top, but always running and kicking with their feet, always solving these things in the background. He talks his way into running the restaurant at an upscale London hotel, managed by his old buddy Tony (Daniel Bruhl), and even gets some of his old pals to come work for him, along with a few new faces. He pulls all-nighters with chef Helene (Sienna Miller), whom he has manipulated into working for him; he screams and yells and flings tools and food. “Burnt” doesn’t overly concern itself with the details of Adam’s brilliance – it’s repeatedly alluded to and whisked over in montages, but the problem is that his talent is assumed, not proved on screen. The move seems even more egregious when it becomes clear, through sessions with an unethical therapist (Emma Thompson), that Jones took advantage of Tony’s romantic feelings for him.

German actor Daniel – who has starred in Ron Howard’s Rush and the Captain America films – said: “Bradley didn’t have a double in any scene. Introduced as a talented up-and-coming chef and devoted single mother who works at a competing restaurant, Helene can tell Jones is a jerk as soon as she meets him, yet she’s lured to his kitchen by a much bigger salary. This comes out in scenes with the excellent Emma Thompson as a therapist who gives him weekly drug tests and with Helene’s daughter Lily (Lexi Benbow-Hart), whom Adam seems to relate to best. But this psychological deconstruction gets swept away in the frenzy over the Michelin stars and a very misguided subplot about a French drug dealer collecting his debts. “Burnt” is impeccably made, with slick food photography and rapid-fire editing that tickles the senses. But despite Jones yelling at her, belittling her skills, grabbing her by her (alluringly loose) tank top and ditching her for another woman at a party he invited her to, Helene suddenly forgets her parental responsibilities and falls for him.

There is potential to dig into some interesting themes around psychology, power, and control in the swaggering Wild West of restaurant kitchens, but “Burnt” gets distracted by petty dramas. But in this case, I think the tone — and that’s, first of all, always the director who creates a certain atmosphere and, fortunately, John Wells creates that vibe that I really like and it reminded me of working with Ron Howard — and then you had this wonderful ensemble that also makes you feel good.

As you can see in this film, all these wonderful actors who appear for one scene or for two, but fill it with so much energy, this is something I admire, because realistically, as a European actor, you very often end up having supporting parts or small parts.

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