Burnt isn’t an Oscar worthy film. Let’s dismiss that right away. That doesn’t mean the film isn’t worthwhile or will steal your time and money. John Wells’ savory dish is a crowd pleaser with a ultra confident Bradley Cooper in the driver seat operating a familiar engine.
The gifted yet troubled culinary genius who tries to revitalize his career by re-calibrating a Long restaurant ran by an old friend(Daniel Bruhl, who has an accent I wish I could adopt). He wants the three star Michelin rating. The Cy Young award. The World Series ring. The legacy that follows around every great chef the rest of his life. There’s zero, one, two or there’s the coveted three. Go big or go home is Adam Jones’ motto.
He had a chance in Paris and snorted, shot, or injected every last ounce of opportunity until most thought he was dead. That’s the way it is with high class chefs. They are their own worst enemies. Guilty by success and failure, and the cat walk that dangles between each plateau. Jones’ rival(Matthew Rhys, in between seasons of The Americans) needs him to stay sharp. Others need him for a job. Some want revenge. Some want money. Everybody wants a piece of Jones except himself. He wants the third star.
Wells populates this film with a talented cast. Sienna Miller(her second go around with Cooper after American Sniper), Omar Sy, Uma Thurman, and Emma Thompson are just a few that get to slice and dice up the dialogue from Steven Knight(Locke, Eastern Promises, upcoming World War Z 2). The story is just unpredictable enough to stay interesting. It’s all good work but the film hinges on the ability of Cooper to convince us to follow Jones along on this ride of redemption.
He isn’t a nice guy or a normal protagonist. He’s a pompous jerk who needs an extra kitchen for his ego but his brilliance at “the pass”(where the food makes its final stop before table distribution) is what separates him from the nice guys. Cooper is marvelous again in a role that needs confidence and swagger to work with a side of demons. Ten years ago, Cooper tried to play this character(on Fox’s short lived series Kitchen Confidential) and failed. A decade and a career revival later, he fits perfectly into this tormented skin. Cooper needed to take a few licks in Hollywood before he could properly set his feet and take a full swing. These days, he can’t miss.
It may not be Oscar worthy work but Burnt is easy on the mind and the eyes(the food is a fine supporting player). Cooper doesn’t deserve a spot next to Michael Fassbender or Leonardo DiCaprio in February, but he is very good here and carries the film like a seasoned pro(or a freshly minted 41 year old, happy birthday Coop).
Burnt may not be a perfect medium rare filet, but it’s a brilliantly cooked medium well strip. Perfect for a night of modest expectations.
Let’s put it this way. I had a choice to take my wife to see this or Spectre back in November. I wish I had chose Burnt.