That’s not to say that movies about food have been non-existent prior to Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen, but the tone in foodie films have changed since the days of Chocolat and Ratatouille, and Burnt appears to be leading the revolution.
Centering on chef and former drug addict Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) who attempts to rebuild his life and career after a series of failures in his past Parisian restaurant, the film aims for us to side with and root for Adam in his quest to achieve another Michelin star while maintain a relationship with single mum and fellow chef Helene (Sienna Miller). This is stressed so much that a significant portion of the film mentions Adam’s sexual past, drug abuse, failed relationships and lost opportunities as a means to get the audience to like and cheer for him.
Fortunately for the audience, there are other characters that alleviate interest in the film. His past friend Tony (Daniel Bruhl) runs a hotel and has an interesting connection with Adam, while his former colleague Michel (Omar Sy) struggles to trust him again. Then there’s David (Sam Keeley), an up and coming chef who takes Adam in, and Adam’s new therapist Dr. Rosshilde (Emma Thompson), in a severely underdeveloped and underused role. Plus there’s an interesting appearance from Uma Thurman as a food critic Simon Forth that feels unnecessary but gives us much needed screen time away from Adam.
Much of the troubles with Burnt come from Steven Knight’s screenplay, which focuses less on the beauty and love of food and more on how Adam capitalizes on this love and how his business is the most important thing. Rather than lingering on food shots to make the audience crave what is being portrayed, it’s more of a behind the scenes look at the crazy and abusive chefs who make it. In the same way director John Wells’ August: Osage County lacked narrative direction, intrigue and an emotional connection with the audience, Burnt is missing the fire and interest of a coherent storyline – there seems to be no real point of the film or reason why it was made at this time.
Falling into predictability, intent on examining and giving rise to the important of perfection in the food industry,Burnt comes across like an extended advertisement for renowned chefs across the world and like the tiresome pet project of a food business enthusiast. Indeed the cooking scene have an element of exhilaration, but the drama is overplayed and the character motivations muddy to the point of indetermination. The ensemble cast seem to have no idea what to do with the material they are given with and sadly all the characters seem like one-dimensional cardboard cut outs. Probably the most disappointing thing of all is how bland and boring the entire experience is, with Burnt easily one of the worst food films of our age.
Originally published on CelebrityOz, 16 November, 2016.