Charting the comeback of a talented but reckless chef following a self-imposed exile, “Burnt” feels like the sequel to a film we’ve never seen. Bradley Cooper plays Adam Jones, a chef who, we gradually learn, shone so brightly in Paris years ago until his addictions got the better of him and destroyed his life. He returns to London, determined to reconnect with friends and enemies from his past in order to take a shot at redemption by gaining a third Michelin star.
Cooper provides a decent focal point as the middle-aged enfant terrible of haute cuisine but the film falls into the trap of telling us how great he was rather than showing us thanks to a clunky and inelegant script which seems determined to tease us by merely referring to all the really interesting and juicy events in the past. Both the characterisation and pacing are uneven, leading to a denouement that feels rushed and slightly twee. It’s especially disappointing when, had the film had the courage to end just ten minutes earlier, it could have left a more powerful and effective taste on the palate.
The supporting cast is solid – Sienna Miller and Omar Sy impress but the usually excellent Daniel Brühl is a little stiff, especially in the early scenes – and the city of London provides a wonderful backdrop to whole story but even they and a sensational one-two sucker punch moment of betrayal and mercy aren’t quite enough to rescue this deflated soufflé of a drama. It still tastes pretty good, but it’s not what it could have been.
It’s nowhere near a kitchen nightmare though and easily becomes my fourth favourite cooking movie (after “Chef”, “The Hundred Foot Journey” and “Ratatouille”). “Burnt” is like the clichéd stereotype of the finest cuisine: the ingredients are the finest quality, it’s beautifully prepared and exquisitely presented but if you’re hungry, you want something with a bit more sustenance.