Burnt review: Even Bradley Cooper can't save this confused, cliched film

Mihir Fadnavis

Oct 30, 2015 17:20:03 IST

It almost seems like the great recipe – a movie about a chef trying to right a wrong, with various shots of delicious food, and the immensely likable Bradley Cooper as the chef in question, written by Steve Knight who has been responsible for some of the best indies over the past few years. Burnt is a demonstration of how even with the seemingly perfect ingredients the final outcome can still emerge either overdone or undercooked.

Now that the food analogy is out of the way, here’s why this film doesn’t work – it takes itself way too seriously. Burnt is supposed to be comedy with a hint of drama but the treatment is all upside down.

 Burnt review: Even Bradley Cooper cant save this confused, cliched film

A still from Burnt. Image from Facebook.

Adam (Cooper) gets a kick in the nuts when his work as a chef in Paris is affected by his leaning towards drugs, alcohol, hookups and arrogance. He spends a few lowly years in the US and lands up in London with the mission to revive his flat lined career and salvage some pride. In London, he begs big time restaurateur Tony (Daniel Bruhl) to hire him again so they could outdo the rival Reece (Matthew Rhys). To do this Adam gets together a team featuring a former friend (Omar Sy) and the template female lead subordinate (Sienna Miller). Things don’t go as smoothly as expected with his ego still at boiling point, alcohol and drugs just a stone throws distance away, and a huge debt to pay.

Adam is portrayed throughout the film as this flawed genius, yet we never know why he is like that because of the incredibly poor character development. Where he comes from, what drives his ego is left unclear, so it becomes difficult to connect with the guy when he falls or rises. His actions are surface level as are his emotions, so the only takeaway from his character is that he’s kind of an unlikable prick. There are very few actors who can pull off being likable despite playing an unlikable character, and Cooper is no Robert Downey Jr to make that shtick work in his favour.

The other problem is the stakes don’t seem high enough for the audience to really care about. The big thrilling psychological mind game that Adam plays throughout the film is to get an extra Michelin star – a huge honor in the culinary world, but we never really get to know how big a deal it is. So when Adam strives so hard to get to this objective it seems like a feeble contest at best. The other shortcoming of Burnt is its clichés. The formula of redemption and righting a wrong has been done a billion times in prior movies based on chefs and food. When you can guess the ending twenty minutes into the film, you expect something different in the journey towards it, but all you get are the same generic tropes.

The only time the film seems interesting is in the kitchen when Adam and his team work furiously, like a military organization to prepare the food. Most films often portray the process of making food as a romanticized procedure, and we’re always told how cooking can make on intrinsically happy. So it’s fascinating to see people in the restaurant work in furious technique. If the rest of the film had the same nervous energy and pace of these sequences, it would have been far more watchable.

Updated Date: Oct 30, 2015 17:22:15 IST