Soft-core food porn backed with strong performances.
The recent onslaught of food/chef films has left me quite jaded to the whole genre. How many ways can you slice fish? However, screenwriter on fire Steven Knight and director John Wells’ 2015 film ‘Burnt‘ spins a “fallen from grace” redemption story into the world of London Haute Cuisine and it’s a delicious, if-overly familiar entree.
Bradley Cooper fully encompasses burnt American chef “Adam Jones“. Diving in with as much conviction as his notable turn in ‘American Sniper’, but in a more enjoyable film. With a hint of Cooper’s natural charm, “Jones” is the quintessential Parisian trained perfectionist hothead. His command in the kitchen is as fierce as his lack of control outside of it.
Years after his rampant addictions self-destructed a rocketing career in Paris, Jones takes a stab at London by enlisting old frenemies in an attempt for the coveted 3-star Michelin rating. However, past sins haunt his every move.
Along for the ride is Adam’s old colleague Tony (an engagingly openhearted Daniel Brühl) whose money/connections gets Jones his restaurant and Bradley Cooper’s fellow ‘American Sniper’ cast-mate Sienna Miller as sous-chef extraordinaire “Helene“. Adam’s relationships with Tony and Helene are the film’s core. The chemistry among these actors is magnetic and, at least between Miller and Cooper, simmering.
Brief appearances from an unrecognizably British Uma Thurman, Alicia Vikander, and a delightful Emma Thompson are much appreciated. While Matthew ‘The Americans’ Rhys provides a fierce foe as Adam’s ex-colleague, now chief rival “Reece“.
Like most artistic endeavor stories, it’s the artist themselves that prove to be their own greatest adversary. Thankfully, Knight and Wells keep the cliched self-immolations to a minimum letting things progress at a more tolerable pace. The drama originates from the grounded acting and light-touch direction of Wells. With nary a political or social agenda in sight.
However, genre tropes abound: the domineering chef throwing tantrums; a young, struggling protege rising under extreme pressure to impress by the end; a “food critic in the house” freak-out; the hardened, solitary perfectionist coming to finally appreciate his colleague’s contributions; the burgeoning “in-the-kitchen” romance; etc…
With an engaging Bradley Cooper led cast, an easily palatable, heart-felt script, and simple A to B to C flow ‘Burnt‘ comes heartily Recommended. Just make sure you’ve got food readily available afterwards…You will be hungry.