Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Burnt: Film Review

Burnt: Film Review


Cast: Bradley Cooper, Daniel Bruhl, Sienna Miller, Omar Sy, Alicia Vikander, Emma Thompson, Uma Thurman
Director: John Wells

It’s the long path to redemption in Burnt, the latest serving from the cinematic kitchen.

Cooper plays chef Adam Jones, who destroyed his career in Paris, and also wrecked his life with booze, drugs and women. Having paid his penance for his mistakes by shucking a million oysters, he swans back into London and the life of maitre’d Tony (Daniel Bruhl, one of the film’s high points), demanding another chance and trading on his brilliance in a former life.

With Jones determined to get a third Michelin star, he begins setting up a kitchen, but finds the sins of his past are roadblocks to his current behaviour…

Unlike last year’s amiable Chef, Burnt is a traditional road to redemption story, with a diversion into Gordon Ramsay behaviour and tirades.

Opening with a ramshackle “getting back the gang a la Oceans 11/12/13 for one last heist / restaurant Michelin star” push, the film’s got a rag-taggle feel to it, Burnt never really settles for anything ambitious or deep in its treatment of its protagonist, preferring to tread a workmanlike route.

Jones’ narcissistic tendencies and chef based arrogance are deeply alienating, and certainly his relationship with Sienna Miller’s sous chef and potential love interest Helene has all the hallmarks of a classic bully/ victim/ abuse cycle (in fact, it’s deeply disturbing that this is never fully addressed throughout – and is echoed in his relationship with Bruhl’s Tony who comes back time and time again, simply because he’s dazzled by his brilliance).  Despite re-teaming with his American Sniper colleague, there's never really a sense of plausibility to the relationship - even though one suspects those within the industry may quietly acknowledge the inferred realities of what transpires.

So, Jones' quest back to redemption and acceptance by the critical world is marred by this and also by the fact he never actually shows his talents or the troubles from his past which threaten so catastrophically to derail his plans for gastronomic success. It is merely enough for the script to tell us he's great and continue to ram that point down our throats that it feels like it suffices, like a cinematic amuse bouche that doesn't hit the spot.

Cliched moments mar the journey too as this volatile and cocky chef heads onwards; and while Wells’ eye for frenetic fleeting shots of haute cuisine feel like a slideshow working on double time, his evocation of the culinary perfection and white sheen of the restaurant world is a tantalisingly refreshing treatment and avoids falling into clich├ęd food porn shots.

But it's the fact that Burnt is a film that flounders without a real identity, seems happy to highlight supporting players and then toss them aside like a discarded starter that irritates more than anything. Emma Thompson, Uma Thurman and Alicia Vikander are treated appallingly, reduced to fleeting cameos in effect and left in the wake of Cooper's character. A deeper interaction with more of them would have been more effective and certainly would have given Burnt the depth that it so desperately needed. (Though one twist is deliciously served up towards the end, adding some much needed spice to this bland concoction)

Ultimately Burnt serves up all the cliches, but with a protagonist who's so unlikeable and who behaves in a manner that's so unworthy of ultimate redemption. It's more a cinematic meal that you'd possibly want to send back, rather than savour every bite of.

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