Burnt is the latest of a recent surge in cooking movies, and most certainly the juiciest — after Chef and The Hundred-Foot Journey — thanks to the presence of Bradley Cooper in the leading-man role.
In Burnt, he plays a rock-star chef — not unlike the one he played on the shortlived TV series, Kitchen Confidential. Once upon a time, Cooper’s Adam Jones was the toast of Paris, but a meltdown and multiple addictions forced him to the relative backwater of New Orleans while he licked his wounds. Now, he’s in London, trying to put the band back together so he can land that elusive third Michelin star. He mends some burned bridges — with a well positioned maitre d’ (Daniel Bruhl) and a former rival (Omar Sy) — and discovers some new talent, including a beautiful single mother (Sienna Miller).
Directed by John Wells (August: Osage County) and written by Steven Knight (Eastern Promises), Burnt looks extremely tasty, both in the kitchen and its deep and distinguished pedigree. But this is Cooper’s maison and he’s the reason many will plunk down 12 bucks. Cooper isn’t bombproof — see Aloha — but after American Sniper, he is one of the elite actors in Hollywood, with three straight Oscar nominations to boot. ”He’s one of the few actors who can convincingly play unlikable a-holes in the first act and end up earning your sympathy by the third — even if his hands are as tied as a Christmas roast as they are here,” write EW’s Chris Nashawaty in his C+ review.
For more of Nashawaty’s review and a sampling of other critics from around the country, scroll below.
Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly)
“It’s a movie that not only feels about 10 years too late, its message is basically that in order to be a great chef you have to be an arrogant jerk who treats everyone in the galley like crap. How else will they know you’re a genius? … The first half … is so stuffed with bad-boy clichés and arias of egomania it felt like a MAD magazine parody of Top Chef season 6. I almost felt bad for Bradley Cooper.”
Tim Grierson (ScreenDaily)
“Every thoughtful story beat and every well-observed character moment happens with such predictability and slick professionalism that the whole project seems smothered in bland sweetness. Ironically for a film about a daredevil who wants to challenge his customers, Burnt mostly plays it safe.”
Kimberley Jones (Austin Chronicle)
“Oy, does this film have a boner for his ‘bad boy’ chef … Cooper’s character might be the most dislikable leading man to grace movie screens in ages. Repugnant, even — and that, it turns out, makes for a rather pleasant change of pace. Who says you have to root for the hero? It’s called free will — you don’t check it at the box office. I actively loathed this asshat for most of the movie, which made his comeuppance (a truly inspired one) more delicious….”
Tom Russo (Boston Globe)
“The movie has a problematic penchant for extremes, first asking us to appreciate its subject’s off-putting artistic perfectionism, then to root for his clichéd redemption. It’s a variation on Chef, but also on the twisted spirit of Whiplash, in a way, only with haute cuisine, mainstream gloss, and a conveniently tidy wrap-up.”
Justin Chang (Variety)
“Unfortunately, Burnt never rises to the level of its characters’ ambition, and with the exception of one smart, unpredictable twist, the story increasingly bogs down in perfunctory subplots… The script treats even the more essential characters not as individuals so much as, well, ingredients — perhaps none more insultingly than Bruhl’s Tony, whose longtime unrequited crush on Adam is resolved with a cheap punchline.”
Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune)
“The film doesn’t lack for conflict; Adam has drug dealers on his tail, and an ex-lover (Alicia Vikander) who pops in from Paris. But only Emma Thompson, doing what she can in a few minutes of screen time as Adam’s wise recovery counselor, adds the ingredient Burnt otherwise lacks: a human pulse.”
Neil Genzlinger (New York Times)
“For a time the movie feels like a heist film, as Adam calls his old kitchen gang together; one is even just getting out of prison. … What follows is a decently structured story of personal demons and culinary competition, with a couple of nice twists thrown in, but it’s built with materials that at this point in the life cycle of this genre are mighty shopworn.”
Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle)
“The food cooked and created by the great Adam (Cooper) — and served up to us in Burnt — looks like the worst fancy-phony trend cuisine … I skipped dinner to see this movie, and the only time I felt a hint of missing something was during the scene when the chef, slumming, goes to Burger King. In a food porn movie like this, if a Whopper with cheese is the most delicious thing up there, there’s a big problem.”
Ignatiy Vishnevetsky (The A.V. Club)
“Like a few other movies scripted by Knight, Burnt feels like two acts missing a third, and its small pothole of a dramatic arc isn’t done any favors by Wells’ rushed and minimally personal approach, which allows just two small flourishes (one involving the Donnie Darko score, the other involving rack focus) between all the quick-cut back-and-forths and montages of modern London architecture, fancy kitchenware, and fancier food.”
Richard Roeper (Chicago Sun-Times)
“As an often cliché-riddled tale of redemption on the big screen, Burnt is the equivalent of a sleek, well-lit, trendy restaurant serving up a mildly creative dishes on an otherwise predictable menu. (OK, also predictable: critics unable to resist food metaphors in their reviews of Burnt. Guilty as charged.)”
Eric Kohn (IndieWire)
“Miller stands out — though there’s something dispiriting about the way she simply melts into our hero’s arms like butter in a sizzling pan. These two actors do their best to generate legitimate romantic chemistry with underwhelming material, but Burnt gives them little to chew on aside from the usual scraps of undercooked material (and plenty of excuses for bad puns).”
Length: 100 minutes
Starring Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Daniel Bruhl
Directed by John Wells
Distributor: The Weinstein Company