Bradley Cooper has portrayed an array of characters in a handful of different movie generes over the years – from “The Hangover” to “Silver Linings Playbook” to “Guardians of the Galaxy”; and every single role he chooses, you can tell that he gives it his all. His performance in “Burnt” is nothing short of those expectations.
Cooper’s character, Adam Jones, was at one point recognized as one of the top chefs in Paris, until an obsession with the wrong things in life led him down a path blanketed in turmoil. One day, he decides he wants to start over, and shows up in London to make amends with previous co-workers that he had at one time pushed away. Adam becomes determined to turn around a hotel restaurant, which has the potential and need, to become a prominent, gourmet place to dine. However, the owner, Tony (Daniel Bruhl) is hesitant due to his connection and knowledge of Adam’s disrespectful nature, and mistrust he has shown him in the past. But Adam is out to get a third Michelin star rating, and will do anything to achieve it and finally gain his reputation back after all these years.
As the movie advances, you see all of the characters subtly progress side to side with one another. Sienna Miller plays the curious love interest to Adam – a short blonde haired Helene, and has such a passionate, daring personality that is almost addictive, and makes you want to be a part of what she is doing. Adam sees the spirit in her food creations, and recruits her to work in his kitchen, along with others from a multitude of backgrounds, including ex-convicts, small-scale restaurant cooks, and people he once stepped on to climb higher to the top.
Adam does not run his kitchen in the classic, storybook way of a gourmet restaurant-love story, like so many others have before. The almighty, washed-up chef is arrogant, controlling, condescending and indelicate as he yells obscenities at his kitchen staff if things are not absolutely flawless.
“If it’s not perfect, you throw it away… regardless of time,” is something Adam said on more than one occasion. To him, food and perfection go hand in hand. You could not have one without the other. A “culinary orgasm” is what he always strived for. Failing was not possible. If you failed, you would try again. And again. And again.
However, over time Adam’s OCD and perfectionism begin to calm, and the kitchen staff not only start to learn the ropes of working in the up-scale restaurant business, but Adam himself learns from his own staff. He learns patience and grounding from Helene, and gains insight from Reece, his old cuisine rival (played by Matthew Rhys). And after many ups and downs, outbursts and dark periods, Adam eventually realizes he needs all of them in his life, just as much as they need him in theirs.
“You’re better than me. But the rest of us need you to lead us to places we wouldn’t otherwise go.” – Reece
As is obvious in each kitchen scene, Cooper and Miller trained with award winning chef and honored Michelin-starred British chef, Marcus Wareing, who has worked for numerous world-renowned chefs including Gordon Ramsay, Daniel Boulud and Guy Savoy before he opened three upscale restaurants in London, as said in a Food Network behind-the-scenes “Burnt” special.
From the stunning, exquisite dishes that are prepared by Cooper himself, to the phenomenal musical score that sets the unique tone for each scene as it transitions to the next, ”Burnt” brings out the real feelings in every one of its characters- the joy, the despair, the hope and the strength. It is a movie about working together to find out who you are, and who you want to be. It is about learning that you are not alone in balancing the struggle of work and your personal life. And perhaps most importantly, when the film ends, you will want to race home and cook a savory dish to revel in with all of your close friends.
Besides some weak side plots, and some loose characters who you only see for a quick minute (Hello, restaurant reviewer, Uma Thurman), ”Burnt” is cleverly written by Steven Knight and skillfully directed by John Wells. It is definitely worth a watch if you have even a remote interest in cooking, the restaurant industry, or just simply love food.
Photo courtesy of The Weinstein Company