They came, they cooked, they conquered. And by conquered I mean they sprinkled some seasoning and yelled a lot. There’s been an uprising of cooking movies recently (Chef, The Hundred-Foot Journey… Ratatouille), but Burnt tries to push the others aside and shake off the warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from innocent success and a succulent lava cake. This time around, we’re in for more of a Hell’s Kitchen than a Master Chef Junior.
It’s not completely clear what happened in Paris, but somehow Chef Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) took his career and shook it like a frothy martini. It’s taken him three years to cool down his flambé attitude and prepare to jump back into the frying pan. Adam’s first move is to literally move to London and hunt down an old friend at his swanky hotel. With a few strings pulled here and there, Adam sautés his way into a new position as the hotel’s head chef. He scrounges together a team, designs a stellar menu, and sets the stoves to medium high all in the hopes of wowing Michelin and landing the mythical third star. Adam is Obi Wan Kenobi on a mission to become Yoda.
The difference between Burnt and, say, The Hundred-Foot Journey is the result of too much cayenne in certain characters’ nether regions. Burnt is just so angry. Adam breaks more dishes than the defects room at the Swarovski Crystal factory. And on those dishes is food that would probably bring us to the brink of sublime enlightenment. It’s hard to say how Adam gets away with being such a son of a braised lamb shank. His devoted staff sticks around because they are in awe of Adam’s culinary godhood, and they eagerly devour any opportunity to learn from Hephaestus of the horseradish. This power enables Adam to strut around his kitchen insulting everything that moves like the pompous king of the oyster empire.
But where do we go from here? Burnt may be an angry film, marinating in drug debts, rivalries, and unrequited romance, but it does drive toward a final goal: Michelin. What’s enjoyable about Burnt is how desperate Adam becomes in forcing every element of his life to be absolutely perfect. He is the spokesman for Type A. Burnt is a film under pressure, rushing through montages only to slow down for moments of restrained self-destruction, the destruction of others, or birthday parties for little girls. On the whole, I wouldn’t exactly call it delightful.
Bradley Cooper is fantastic as the focused, driven, high intensity Chef Adam. He makes full use of his ability to communicate a page of script with facial expressions alone. He also has the privilege of playing the most dynamic character in the bunch. Tony (Daniel Brühl), the hotel manager, is present and ready to work the scene, but his character isn’t nearly as interesting. A few subplot points are thrown his way to try and add some depth to the character, but like a sad meringue he falls a little flat. Adam’s saucier, Helene (Sienna Miller), suffers from the same, deflated affliction. So much focus is on Adam and his goal that the supporting cast get overshadowed (or… under baked).
Burnt is the angry cooking film we’ve been missing – although, perhaps not the one we’ve been waiting for. It lacks the uplifting positivity that comes from drooling over spectacular, edible creations, even though it does still show some pretty fancy tricks with the garnish. If you’re a fan of Hell’s Kitchen this may be the movie for you. If you prefer the “crème” to the “brûlée” then trust me when I say Burnt is a 5.5/10.