Unappetising kitchen drama from John Wells, with Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller
Of all the movies in which cooking is a metaphor for love or a vehicle for redemption, Burnt may be the first in which the carefully presented, fastidiously styled chow looks like nothing you actually want to eat. And while glamorous stars slice, dice, scream and yell, throw plates and sprinkle garnishes around luxuriously appointed kitchens, none of them look as if they really cook or eat this stuff.
In director John Wells' latest, Bradley Cooper is Adam Jones, the arrogant chef who is supposedly a bad boy genius (‘The bastard could cook gravel,’ snarks Matthew Rhys’s ex-friend turned jealous rival). Adam destroyed his meteoric Paris career, alongside all of his relationships, with a combination of drugs, booze and cruel betrayals. After a self-imposed exile doing penance shucking a million oysters in New Orleans he arrives in London determined to claw back his Michelin-starred reputation.
Conveniently, a hotel heir (Daniel Brühl) who secretly loves him (we discover this when he sneaks into Adam’s hotel room and sniffs his shirts) instantly provides him with a swanky location and the readies to showcase his cuisine. Only he’s five years out of date in terms of cooking fashions. And there are French thugs pursuing him for drug debts. And the people he wronged are sabotaging his new enterprise. And the talented saucier (Sienna Miller) isn’t succumbing to his fabled charm. And there are restaurant critics and Michelin inspectors in the dining room whenever a plate-smashing panic is on.
Amid the obstacles contrived and piled onto Adam’s efforts at salvation, characters amusingly declaim bits of back story – like reminding him what he did to them in Paris – or carefully explain stuff to supposedly experienced kitchen staff, like exactly what Michelin stars are. Uma Thurman cameos as a restaurant critic who announces she’s a lesbian so cannot remember why she slept with Adam, while Alicia Vikander turns up as the regretful old flame who's around just long enough to give Adam her papa’s kitchen knives and make a couple of subplots magically disappear. Some of this unintentional hilarity is almost endearing, but Cooper’s character, disappointingly, remains as stubbornly resistible as his menu, which makes the film less than palatable.
General release from Fri 6 Nov.