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Burnt – Movie Review

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Burnt – Movie Review

Rating: C (Average)

With his rising star status, Bradley Cooper is slowly starting to typecast himself. In almost every major role of his, including his three Oscar-nominated turns, he portrays somebody rather unhinged and on the brink of snapping. To his credit, he plays those characters very well, but it would be refreshing to see Cooper tackle the part of the straight man (which he managed to do with mixed results in Aloha earlier this year). Burnt has the talented thespian again play somebody falling to pieces and losing his patience with the world. He does a good job in the role, but he needed a better script and stronger direction to work with as this is primarily an “airplane movie.”

Director John Wells takes a very sub-standard approach to the material, never truly making the script and the dynamics engaging. When Cooper’s Adam Jones flies into fits of rage, the actors have to do the heavy lifting and make it look intimating. Steven Knight’s screenplay only barely delves deeply into Jones’s personal demons and past troubles. However, the most disappointing part of Wells’ direction is how the food never leaps off the screen. Some of the best films about cooking make one hungry whilst watching them, much to the delight of the cinema’s concession stands. Burnt doesn’t really show why fancy French food is something worth being overpriced and eaten. The meals Jones and his fellow cooks craft consist, to quote Woody Allen, of very small portions.

Wells and Knight occasionally dabble in mushy sentimentality. This is a story that wants to go into the darker thought processes of some chefs and their search for perfection, but it seems like the script has been lightened up. One particularly cloying sequence has Jones sharing a cake with Sienna Miller’s daughter and the scene is presented in a way that’s far more sugary than whatever is in the dessert. The rivalry between chefs is never fully developed in a very strong way as that backstage measuring contest could have made for actual dramatic or even comedic tension. That the script eventually succumbs to obvious clichés only hurts the film more.

Bradley Cooper really does elevate the film as much as he possibly can. Even though it’s yet another character in the process of losing his mind, he plays the role with the right ferocity. Everyone just seems to exist to support him and are handed superfluous characters to work with. Sienna Miller is merely the love interest, Matthew Rhys is the obvious rival to Adam Jones and Daniel Bruhl just has to look disappointed at his actions. Uma Thurman appears for a brief cameo as a restaurant critic and it appears like she is in the film only because she just happened to be near the filming location. Rising talent Alicia Vikander is completely wasted in a minor role that will obviously be overshadowed by her turns in Ex Machina, The Danish Girl and the many other movies she has out this year.

Burnt’s biggest problem is it’s just stale and for a film set in the world of cooking, it doesn’t make one want to go to a fancy restaurant. It’s that rare sort of “food porn” where the cuisine looks completely unappetizing. One wonders if the script was originally much more raw and then because of studio demands, it was lightened up to appeal to a wider audience. It’s sadly forgettable with little meat to chew on. The main element holding it up is Bradley Cooper’s performance, showing he is certainly consistent in playing these types of characters. Otherwise, this is a project that looks like it will fall into obscurity especially with much stronger films about cooking available at your local rental place and streaming service.

Stefan Ellison

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