Film Review – Burnt



Burnt lacks anything worth biting into. We have Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper), former wonder chef who wrecked his life with booze and drugs and now three years later is clean and heading to London, desperate to open a new restaurant and this time earning three stars in a travel guide as his ultimate prize.  From the start Adam appears all Ocean’s Eleven in getting the old gang back together–mainly Tony (Daniel Brühl), a maitre d’, who also happens to come from money to help Adam get his restaurant started. Tony is gay and loves Adam even though he knows a relationship is not to be. Everyone else Adam gets pretty randomly, with us learning little about them throughout the whole film.  We also have Adam finding someone new that he has to have, and in this case it is Helene (Sienna Miller), who he sucks into his scheme despite her not being interested.

If his plan to start a restaurant isn’t enough of a plot we also have Dr. Rosshilde (Emma Thompson) making certain that he stays off drugs and alcohol and talks about the issues he has connecting with people, even though we see him often talking with Tony and Helene so how he isn’t able to work with people makes no sense. There is the obligatory other chef as an enemy from the old days who seems to be there just because Adam needs an enemy. We do not see why they hate each other, we just know they do. There is also a drug dealer who wants his money from long ago who we never see speak, and an ex-girlfriend who was the daughter of his mentor Anne Marie (Alicia Vikander) that shows up twice but we never find out much about her. And the mandatory mentor-pupil budding romance between Adam and Helene that I will get to in a moment. So we have all these story lines moving around and they either never come together,  develop into anything interesting, or literally make any sense, and all of this is even worse because everything about this movie is centered around Adam and there is just not much to him.

Burnt Movie Still 1

We see Adam cook and yell but other than that he is blank figure.  It became clear the more I watched that I didn’t care if Adam succeeded in getting his three stars. We are told everything about him rather than being allowed to experience what has happened to him. We are told he was an addict and had worked hard to overcome it but we don’t care that he had gotten better because he was never someone we saw struggle. We are also told he hurt a lot of people in his former life yet when he meets them (very conveniently as well) they never interact with him in a way that gets across the strong feelings they are supposed to have. They appear slightly annoyed but then move on. The only time his past came back in any real way is when someone he hurt gets revenge on him. My first thought was that was a clever trick, followed by Adam deserved it, because they told me what Adam had done and it was bad so why shouldn’t he be punished? I haven’t seen him do anything to make amends or explain his actions.

The worst, though,  is that the “relationship” between Adam and Helene is non-existent; I personally rolled my head back in disbelief when they kissed. This comes out of nowhere. It is never developed and is thrown in there because I guess they thought Bradley Cooper and Sierra Miller are attractive so they should kiss. When it comes to movie romance if you are going to have it you have to realize you have a limited time frame to get us to really believe that two people have a connection. A montage of cooking together is not a relationship. We are told that they are alike yet Helene seems more interested in having a job so that she can take care of her daughter than in being any kind of super chef.

Burnt Movie Still 2

If all this wasn’t enough the film is just dull, there is only so often you can show people cooking and being intense doing it before it becomes ponderous.  Though when we aren’t there we are vaguely moving to one of those other story lines that are never any more interesting, so I guess at least with the kitchen moments we get to see some pretty food. I am unclear what director John Wells was trying to do. So much is going on and yet nothing is really happening, he pushes events along slowly but then races to the end, skipping the middle that makes the endings count.

This was a fully unpleasant experience in that this is a film that seems to cry out that it is indie and tackling real issues but instead is overrun with half-formed ideas and underdeveloped characters but hopes that the adversity of the main character will overcome what it lacks. Yet the adversity isn’t there for us because nothing about him is authentic enough for us to become invested in what he is doing. Through it all there was just misstep after misstep, so that when we find out what happens to him I hoped for failure because then there might have been something to be learned.


Benjamin is a film connoisseur and Oscar watcher who lives in Minneapolis and, when not reviewing movies, works at the Hennepin County Library.

You can reach Benjamin via email or on twitter

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