Up in Flames (Film Review: “Burnt”)


Burnt may not be the last word on the ‘Bad Boy’ chef trope, but it’s still an entertaining potboiler of one man’s journey to self. . . plus it’s always fun to watch Bradley Cooper, especially when he’s dicing, slicing and yelling in both English and French.


SnapShot Plot

In this stylish and gorgeously filmed movie about one man’s egocentric and ambitious attempt to vanquish his personal demons by re-establishing himself as the Haute Couture King of All Chefs, Bradley Cooper throws himself into the role of bad-boy chef, Adam Jones with all the fury he’s known for in his performances.

The story begins with Adam coming back to the very people he’d betrayed years earlier when he threw away a brilliant career in Paris by letting his dangerous addictions spiral out of control. Now he’s on a mission to reclaim his title – this time in London – with the support of a few people still loyal to him as well as newcomers who have no idea what they’ve enlisted for when agreeing to join him. Adam is now the executive chef of a venerable hotel restaurant where his erratic temperament soon morphs him into an, at times, inspiring yet bullying and boorish dictator in the kitchen. His sous chef, Helene, in a fine performance by Sienna Miller, will have none of his l’enfant terrible behaviour, forcing Adam to come to terms with the very real reasons his life has spiraled so out of control. She also takes him down a notch when she proves to him that his culinary technique is out of step with the advances that technology has brought to the industry. Emma Thompson also provides quality in a supporting role as a no-nonsense therapist Adam is forced to see. As if it weren’t tough enough to win over the fickle tastes of the fine dining public and food critics while constantly seeking the accolade and limelight, Adam is also being threatened by some unsavory people from his past to whom a considerable debt must be paid. The pressure keeps building until that lid is bound to boil over.



Parting Shot

Before we reduce much of this movie’s sturm und drang down to cinematic hyperbole, let’s remember that terms such as ‘Food Porn’ and ‘Culinary Orgasm’ are actually in use today, evidenced by an entire entertainment industry which caters to the sexy world of haute cuisine. In fact, respected director John Wells and writer, Steven Knight put a lot more into the production of Burnt than might meet the eye. The behind-the-scenes preparation and training, for one. All the cooking in the film was done by the cast themselves, and both Cooper and Miller were rigorously trained by British Michelin-starred chef Marcus Wareing, himself the protégé of none other than Gordon Ramsey. It seems both co-stars (whose previous film was American Sniper) are a good pair. And whereas Bradley Cooper trained hard to execute killer gun skills in American Sniper, in Burnt the actor displayed an already impressive set of knife skills and cooking proficiency, having worked in several restaurant kitchens growing up in New Jersey.

If anything, Burnt is a cautionary tale about what happens when passion becomes unbridled ambition, and at what cost to yourself and others. When ambition spirals out of control, fueling an ego that’s compensating for a crippling insecurity, it makes for a narcissistic stew but an appetizing character arc.

Burnt is presently streaming on Netflix.

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YouTube Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXaff0PpszM

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