Burnt is like a piece of toast that’s been in the toaster, heating up, for too long. There are initial warnings, that burning smell – weirdly enough I like this smell – which is a movie goer’s intuition speaking, thinking, if this is another one of those clichéd films. Then you take out the toast – watch the film for a little longer – and realize that all is not lost. Maybe, just maybe, if you could scrape off the char – stick with the story a little longer- , there’s still a chance that some eatable toast is left underneath all the darkness that initially took over.
Bradley Cooper plays Adam Jones, a washed out chef who we meet just as his time in redemption is ending. The average film would have shown him rise to the legendary status that he is supposed to be at, fall, and then maybe redeem himself, but here everything is forgone. Instead what we get are hints of a typical con film; the cocky hero in for one last job – in this case out to get three Michelin stars – goes around the city rounding up his pals from the past who are waiting for his return “from the dead” and will at the drop of a hat help him achieve his goal. Unfortunately, in this case, the only con is on the viewer because no matter how much the audience scrapes off the blackened crust of the toast, no matter how much of the char they takes off, and no matter how long you keep watching the film, the truth is, there is no toast left.
Burnt fails because just like Adam Jones, it was the story of the film that needed saving, and that doesn’t happen. There’s a healthy dose of foodporn and pretty dishes for all you food lovers, and Bradley Copper blue eyes sparkle in many scenes – if THAT gets you going – but because there’s no real beginning, we are spoon-fed the back-story via dialogue (no flashbacks) every time Jones meets someone from his past. Imagine you getting a step by step description of the food that’s been placed in front of you and having to sit through it when all you want is to gobble it down. It’s unwanted and assumes that the audience is stupid. It is also because of this condescending approach that we are left with a whole bunch of characters that are never developed and in the end hold no interest whatsoever especially since none of them stand out as notable performers.
I will give the film credit for at least showcasing some important aspects of a chef’s hard life; how drugs, sex, and alcohol (some good and some bad – debatable) often go hand in hand with the job as does working long hours and living life on the edge where relationships take a back seat. There’s also hints of the camaraderie and brotherhood that exists in the industry and while confrontations and competitions are a plenty, it is an industry that is proud of “working together”.
Burnt could have been something different, it could have been an inside look into the many kitchens of this world or a peek into the minds of chefs who are artists in their own right. Instead, it takes the safe path, giving us a film that is low on substance, lacks flavour, and in all honesty has been cooked, reheated, and has been lying under the lamp for so long that even a single bite leaves am unwanted bitter taste in the mouth.