Adam Jones has been shucking oysters in New Orleans for three years, serving his self-inflicted punishment after leaving France, where he worked as a chef. After about a million oysters, Adam feels it’s his time to make his way back across the pond, this time to London. There, he reconnects with his former friend and maître d’, Tony (Daniel Brühl), manipulating him into letting Adam reopen the restaurant and giving him the head chef position. Adam then goes about rehiring old friend, Michele (Omar Sy), and reigniting the flame of competition between himself and one of the chefs he worked with in France, Reece (Matthew Rhys).
Adam’s manipulation schemes don’t stop there as he gives talented sous chef, Helene (Sienna Miller), no other option other than to work for him after forcing her out of her previous job. When he has his chef team assembled, and in between forced therapy and drug testing sessions with Dr. Rosshilde (Emma Thompson), Adam temperamentally fights for his dream of getting the coveted third star review. Alicia Vikander, Lily James, and Uma Thurman’s talents are wasted entirely on tiny and ultimately irrelevant characters.
Director John Wells (August: Osage County) has managed twice so far to gather a multi-talented cast only to have the story fall short of their worthiness. Burnt comes off as a great concept, a complete failure wishing to regain his respectability and achieve greatness (who wouldn’t want to root for that?), but is greatly unoriginal (A Hundred Foot Journey and Jon Favreau’s Chef, anyone?). And of course most films aren’t necessarily original, but it’s been proven time and time again that even overused plots can be re-imagined or even executed well if all the story elements work together.
So where does Burnt fail? For one, the story is far more concerned with telling and not showing. Adam spends half his time dredging up the past with people who were there when it happened and it only serves as lazily-delivered exposition. There are also far too many characters that don’t add anything to the story and don’t offer a different angle. Bradley Cooper’s character is arrogant, selfish, angry with a hulk-like temper (at one point he shouts at Sienna Miller’s character and grabs her roughly without reason), manipulative, and unworthy of the loyalty or acclaim he is given.
Burnt is a mess disguised as a feel-good film, and not a very good one at that. Cooper’s character is not someone you can root for and even the romance between he and Sienna Miller isn’t genuine. It’s thrown in only because, for some reason, they needed to have a romance no matter the fact that the lead character is a complete asshole. An unsurprising and disappointing film that asks you to stand behind a man who doesn’t deserve it.
Release Date: October 30, 2015 | Director: John Wells | Screenwriter: Steven Knight | Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Daniel Brühl, Omar Sy, Emma Thompson, Uma Thurman, Alicia Vikander, Matthew Rhys, Lily James, Riccardo Scamarcio, Sam Keeley | Genre: Drama | MPAA Rating: R for language throughout