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05 Nov 2015

A Bad Taste: Despite Bradley Cooper Giving His All, the Clichéd, Unlikable Main Character Ruins 'Burnt'

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Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller in Burnt. Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller in Burnt.

Bradley Cooper goes all-in for Burnt, in which he plays a chef psychotically determined to get his third Michelin star.

Too bad it’s in service of a character who’s a totally unlikable prick.

After going sober for more than two years and shucking a million oysters as penance for his previous bad behavior, Adam Jones (Cooper) heads to Paris, intent upon regaining his status as a legendary chef and attaining that hallowed “third star” status.

He starts his quest by terrorizing restaurant owner Tony (Daniel Brühl), a friend turned enemy who had a crush on him but now hates him. Jones sets up a scenario with a food critic (Uma Thurman) that would probably get most people arrested for fraud, but in the movies, it gets him control of a kitchen.

Jones stocks his kitchen with a motley crew of cooks, including Michel (Omar Sy), a fellow chef he double-crossed years earlier by setting rats loose in his new restaurant; and David (Sam Keeley) a young up-and-comer who idolizes Jones and allows him to stay at his apartment.

Best among his recruits would be Helene (the always-interesting Sienna Miller), another hotshot chef who Jones intimidates and basically forces to work with him. Admittedly, it’s cool to see Cooper and Miller re-team after American Sniper. Their natural chemistry is one of the better things about the movie.

What doesn’t work is the dour tone and Jones’ nastiness, ultimately leading to a film that is a task to watch. Director John Wells (August: Osage County) finds little moments of humor in the story that wind up being quite refreshing. The film’s tone, however, is all over the place. One second, it’s a kitchen comedy; the next, it’s an ineffective story about some asshole’s struggle with sobriety. It never comes together as a whole.

Wells does a decent job of capturing the intensity of a high-octane kitchen (although, oddly, there is very little focus on the actual food they are serving). The cast is convincing (Cooper boasts some decent knife dexterity) as cooks, and the kitchen scenes crackle with life. Outside of the kitchen … not so much.

Clichés abound as Jones is terrorized by drug dealers seeking past debts, as well as cross-town chefs looking to end his quest. A scene in which Jones falls off the wagon is overwrought, as is his meeting with a past junkie girlfriend. Simply put, the story of Adam Jones has been told before, just with less garlic and scallops.

Cooper tries his best, as he always does. The man put on a lot of muscle weight for American Sniper; here, he speaks some fluent French and is quite believable as a world-famous chef. Miller is good as the chef who will, undoubtedly, become Jones’ love interest. The problem here is that her character is far more interesting than Jones. Burnt would’ve been better had it been her story, with Jones as a supporting player. A full movie of Jones proves to be a tad much.

Brühl delivers another decent performance in a movie that doesn’t quite deserve it. Emma Thompson she seems too young for her role as a matronly investor representative who tests Jones’ blood for chemicals while doling out advice.

Burnt was a passion project for Cooper, and he definitely puts a lot of passion into it. But his film, in the end, is ruined by too much seasoning and a host of bad ingredients, resulting in something with a bad taste.

Burnt is playing at theaters across the valley.

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