Film Review: Burnt

Burnt is a film about chefs, but we barely get to taste any food.
— Tom
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It’s a simple enough plot.

Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) is a disgraced two Michelin-starred chef who went off the rails but has now appeared in London for one final shot at redemption.

He’s American, can speak French, and often doesn’t have all the buttons of his chef’s jacket done up.

He’s assembled a new brigade, including diamond-in-the-rough commis chef Helene (Sienna Miller), taken residency in The Langham in Marylebone and is shooting for the coveted three stars – or as he puts it, immortality.

Only trouble is that Adam Jones is a veritable bull in a china shop and as affable as Gordon Ramsay with nits in the kitchen. From making his chefs apologise personally to individual pieces of fish, to slamming plates against walls with such consistency that he even orders an entire service to be comped after a blockbuster meltdown; the struggle for the stars is very much with his combustible character as well as with the quality of his food.

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It all went to hell in Paris in his last restaurant as drugs, booze and a toxic attitude sent him into a downward spiral, which ended in him entering a self-imposed exile shucking oysters in the wilderness. He alienated himself from his friends and racked up a hefty tab with some very dodgy people who’re constantly out to collect in violent fashion.

Burnt is a film about chefs, but we barely get to taste any food. Marcus Wareing was the consultant chef on the film, and while plenty of arty dishes fly past the screen on their way out to the diners, the only time we’re really taken through what Adam Jones is doing is near the start of the movie in the dilapidated flat of one of his new commis chefs. Adam serves escargot. With a garlic and parsley butter.

Adam’s face when the commis’ girlfriend announces that he thinks escargot is old fashioned is pretty priceless. A nice touch - as is Adam’s abhorrence and open mockery of sous vide cooking throughout.

The plot does offer a decent message to chefs. Adam Jones initially pushes himself and his team to within an inch of their collective sanity and the restaurant suffers. It’s only when he decides to calm it all down and forget about the crusade of fear and intimidation that his restaurant flourishes.

His brigade want the same thing and his realisation of that fact makes the message of Burnt important in terms of the how relationships should be between a head chef and his team.

Sienna Miller’s character, meanwhile, will surely only serve to aggravate the female chef community.

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Pretty, blonde, a single mum, and easily wooed; the only female chef seen over the 101 minutes evolves from an undervalued cooking talent to an overvalued love interest. It’s a Beauty and the Beast situation, and it really shouldn’t be.

This is a backwards look at the role of the female chef. To fall in love with the violently unstable head chef and hope to help him achieve all his dreams and repair his damaged soul? It’s pretty appalling when distilled down - a basic dynamic that even Pixar’s Ratatouille rightly avoided.

The emphasis Burnt places on Michelin is also pretty farcical, it has to be said, and it will fuel the fires of chefs up and down the country who don’t see stars as an absolute necessity, of which there are many.

The stars themselves are defined as such: One star, Luke Skywalker. Two, Darth Vader. Three, Yoda.

What’s Jar Jar Binks? A pot noodle?

We’re still not sure why the film is called Burnt.

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