You’ve only got to walk around for five minutes before seeing a billboard with a giant Bradley Cooper looming over you, standing defiantly with his arms crossed, with a blank, expressionless look smacked across his face. It’s the poster for John Wells’ Burnt, and what we can gather from this lazy marketing, is that there’s very little used to promote this endeavour other than the celebrity status and popularity of the leading man. But there’s a reason why there’s so little used to sell this movie, because in the case of Burnt, there’s very little to actually sell.
Cooper is playing Adam Jones, a disgraced chef who threw away an illustrious career for his drug habits. After returning back to basics in a New Orleans seafood restaurant, he decides it’s time to return, and so travels to London in a bid to start up his own restaurant, and earn the third Michelin star he’s always been after – hoping to get one over his arch rival, and fellow chef, Reece (Matthew Rhys). Though he’s burnt a few bridges in his time, and it’s going to take some hefty convincing to persuade former colleagues such as Tony (Daniel Bruhl) and Michel (Omar Sy) to put their faith in somebody renowned for their volatility. But with the diligent, passionate Helene (Sienna Miller) targeted to be his Sous-chef, he is adamant that he’s turned a corner, and that he deserves a second chance.
Despite having the esteemed screenwriter Steven Knight on board, where Burnt suffers most greatly, is within the hackneyed screenplay – where subtly is deviated away from and ignored on a consistent basis. This is a feature which treats its audience as though we’re reading from the kid’s menu, spoon feeding everything to us, and leaving so little to our imaginations (or common sense). Every interaction between characters; the conversations: it’s all so contrived and crafted in a way that allows for the audience to know everybody’s respective story and how they intertwine, with little care for realism in the process. Talking of which, Adam Jones is a protagonist devoid of any sense of depth nor nuance, as just your archetypal, cinematic creation of a man seeking redemption after being a dick in his past. But this is a fragile soul who is in recovery, overcoming an unhealthy affliction for narcotics – and yet we never truly get a sense of that at all. Instead, we only see the conceited, resentful chef who cares more about his next smooth, one-liner.
It’s not easy to invest in his cause either, or root for him in any way. The entire narrative is built around him vying for his third Michelin star. But so what if he doesn’t get it – we don’t feel endeared to him because he doesn’t come across as a very nice guy, and his whole aim is just another vanity project for him. If he doesn’t get it, guess he’ll just have to settle for the two he already has. Poor bloke.