A transformative film about culinary redemption
Rock-star chef and all around bad boy, Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) seeks redemption and a third Michelin star as he tries to reinvent himself and revive his career at a chic, London restaurant.Catching up with Bradley Cooper’s Adam Jones, Burnt immerses us in the culinary world of London. Jones, an American, is the former “it” chef of Paris and recovering from his party-boy lifestyle. He’s hellbent on beginning again and righting his past failings, but this means facing his demons in the process.Joined by a perfectly casted ensemble of actors, Bradley Cooper’s volatile Adam is clearly a troubled soul. It’s difficult to find sympathy for someone so dynamically violent and arrogant, but underneath his aggressive nature is a need to cope, the desire for perfection, and an absolute denial of failure.
Helene (Sienna Miller) brings the strong female presence, a single mother on a quest of her own. Matthew Rhys plays a former colleague and two-star chef in competition with Adam in London, and Daniel Bruhl (Rush) plays Tony, the finest maitre d’ in Europe who also happens to be in love with Adam. Emma Thompson rounds out the major supporting cast as Adam’s easygoing but clever “analyst” (therapist), ever ready to put the kettle on. Omar Sy (Jurassic World) and Riccardo Scamarcio (Effie Gray) bring the European flair, and minor casting includes Lily James (Cinderella), Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina), and Uma Thurman (Kill Bill) as the Evening Standard’s food critic.
Yes. I was impressed they took such small roles, too.
The feel of the film is very intense, an odd adjective for a film branded for cooking. The lighting for the food and the kitchen is very marketing-orientated in style, sometimes barely a step away from the pages of Bon Appetit. Overall, this lighting style and the food insert shots become repetitive, but it’s through this device we can see how cooking is a religion for Adam and his chefs. The act itself is about pushing and reaching for perfection. Adam says it best himself, ‘I want it to be so good that they stop eating'.
Burnt exposes a world where the last minute is only as worthwhile as the scallops perfectly pan-fried during that time.
Exposition of the film can also seem too easy at times. For instance, Adam’s “analyst” tends to spell out the demons he faces rather than the filmmakers showing us. This leaves an audience feeling passive, even though she does make excellent points regarding his volatility. And it’s only right to communicate that understanding Adam’s background and personality is central to the point of the film, which is ultimately transformation of self. As a character study, Adam reveals his past simply through dialogue. Even though the usage of language versus visuals is a bit weak, it does maintain the story’s pacing in a world where the last minute is only as worthwhile as the scallops perfectly pan-fried during that time.
Adam’s ultimate goal is to find his balance and a better life. Whether that story had taken place in a restaurant or retirement home, it has a big heart and a need for perspective that we don’t often take the time to consider. People are people, and they bring all sorts of baggage to the mix; it’s the spice of life. Taking a chance, finding your limits and your meaning is universal, add in a healthy dash of adversity to make the ultimate outcome that much sweeter, and you have the perfect recipe for a transformative film, which is just what Burnt is all about.
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