John Hanlon Reviews

Film Reviews

Burnt Movie Review


Genre: Comedy, Drama

Director: John Wells

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Omar Sy, Daniel Brühl, Matthew Rhys, Uma Thurman, Emma Thompson, Alicia Vikander, Lily James

MPAA-Rating: R

Release Date: October 30th, 2015

For three straight years, and Bradley Cooper has been Oscar-nominated, buy more about delivering strong performances in  Silver Linings Playbook, viagra sale American Hustle and American Sniper. It comes as no surprise then that Cooper was cast as the lead in the new drama Burnt, a wannabe character study about a chef reinventing his career. It’s unfortunate that the film’s clunky plot never offers anything of depth for the main actor to really sink his teeth into.

Cooper plays Adam Jones, a character who is originally built to earn the audience’s disdain. In the story’s opening minutes, we see Jones paying a self-inflicted penance for destroying a great opportunity he had working for renowned chef Jean-Luc, a character who is never seen onscreen. In addition to ruining that opportunity and much of his life through substance abuse, Jones sabotaged some of his former chefs from Jean-Luc’s who went on to operate their own kitchens.

But after his meager offering of penance, Jones decides to return to the cooking world where he must confront some of his former fellow chefs who have achieved varying levels of success.

The film is a definite star vehicle for Cooper but his character is oftentimes so despicable that it’s hard to appreciate the transition that Jones is supposed to be going through. It doesn’t help that director John Wells — best known for his work as an executive producer of television dramas like E.R. and The West Wing — overwhelms the story with minor characters that serve little purpose to the plot.

Daniel Bruhl, Omar Sy and Matthew Rhys have small supporting turns as three former Jean-Luc apprentices and those relationships work in showing how Jones’ personality has affected their professional growth. Of the three, Bruhl has the largest role as Tony— a maître d’ who begrudgingly hires Jones— but their relationship is never well-defined and even takes a strange romantic turn in the film’s third act.

Those three relationships though are strong compared to the other dozen or so relationships that are given short shrift here. There’s a therapist who treats Jones, who functions as nothing more than a background character (despite the fact that the great Emma Thompson plays her). The relationship that Jones shares with Helene (played by Cooper’s American Sniper co-star Sienna Miller) works well enough but Helene’s daughter is set up to become a bigger character but is tossed aside when other storylines take precedence. So too is David (Sam Keeley), a chef who houses Jones for a limited time but then seemingly disappears into the background.

It’s not surprising that Gordon Ramsay — the host of reality competition shows Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares — served as a chef consultant here. Some of Jones’ worst insults to his employees are sadly reminiscent of Ramsay’s hurtful outbursts as a reality show host. It’s obvious that Jones is supposed to transition in the story into a more likeable hero but there’s very little focus on that evolution so when the climax comes, it’s hard to appreciate what he’s been through.

More than a motion picture, Burnt seemingly operates more suitably as a pilot of a new television program (it should be noted that Cooper previously played a chef on the short-lived show Kitchen Confidential). Television pilots often serve as appetizers for shows. A pilot can offer a taste of one character, a teaspoon of another and a sample of what it is to come. With so many characters in this film, it feels like a pilot. Few of the supporting characters are really well-developed but that leaves ample time for future storylines to unfold in an episodic way. Movies aren’t like that.

Users should feel satisfied when the credits start to roll but Burnt never offers anything that filling.

Review by: John Hanlon