“Burnt” began its theatrical run across the country yesterday via The Weinstein Company.
A decade ago, Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) was the head chef of his mentor’s restaurant in Paris along with Michel (Omar Sy), Tony (Daniel Bruhl), Reece (Matthew Rhys), and Max (Riccardo Scamarcio), but Adam threw it all away for his addictions to drugs, alcohol, and women. His decisions left him owing a lot of people money and friends quickly became enemies.
In the present day, Adam has given up his vices and has gone clean. He’s spent some time in New Orleans and has set his sights on London. He bullies his way into Tony’s kitchen and brings Michel and Max with him while Reece has his own restaurant and considers Adam his rival. Adam is already a two Michelin star chef and wants to use this venue to get his third. In order to do that, he’s going to need the help of a sous chef named Helene (Sienna Miller).
If you’ve ever been a loner in your lifetime, then you’ll probably find something to relate to in the Adam Jones character. After vanquishing his demons, Adam is determined not to rely on others for anything. He prefers to be alone or at least thinks he has to be in order to take on whatever life throws at him. His desire to reach perfection as a cook is fascinating since life is so imperfect when you break it down day-to-day or hour-by-hour. Adam is bitter, cold, ambitious, arrogant, and vicious if his reputation is at stake. Bradley Cooper adds this vigorous energy to the character that is both compelling and pessimistic in a way that only pulls you in more.
The screenplay isn’t quite as substantial or as vital as the dialogue featured in “Steve Jobs,” but the writing does have this bite to it that hooks the audience. Much like the cutthroat insults you might hear spewing out of Gordon Ramsay’s mouth, Adam Jones is ruthless in the kitchen and tends to throw verbally abusive tantrums culminating with well prepared dishes being slammed against the wall in disgust.
“Burnt” was written by Steven Knight (“Locke,” “Eastern Promises”) with the story being written by Michael Kalesniko (“Iron Sky”). What makes “Burnt” work so well is that underneath it’s harsh, thick exterior is the flawed, genuine nature of a human being. The key to progress is adapting to your surroundings. Adam learns this the hard way when he not only tries to do everything alone, but tries to run it the way it worked ten years ago.
Most of the cast is utilized quite well under Bradley Cooper. Sienna Miller’s portrayal of Helene, a frustrated single mother with a passion for her cooking career, is rewarding. Riccardo Scamarcio has just enough lines of dialogue as ex-con Max to get a few extra laughs out of the audience. Keep an eye on Omar Sy’s Michel character; there’s more to him than you originally believe. The only person who seems to be wasted is Uma Thurman who only has a few minutes of screen time. Daniel Bruhl continues to impress and is absolutely fantastic as Tony. Tony is extremely uptight and has a harsh exterior just as thick as Adam’s. Bruhl is able to bring the character to life in a way that makes you feel and care for him.
“Burnt” capitalizes on the intense drama of an upper-class kitchen. Bradley Cooper adds some much needed depth to the lovable jerk character and leads a superb cast. The film is just as decadent as its subject matter, even though the Adam-owing-money-to-strange-men storyline is wrapped up rather abruptly. Cooper’s prominent screen presence practically and quietly sweeps the film’s “family is everything” message aside without much effort.