D: John Wells. DP: Adriano Goldman. W: Steven Knight. Starring: Bradley Cooper/Sienna Miller/Daniel Bruhl/Omar Sy/Matthew Rhys/Emma Thompson/Uma Thurman/Sam Keeley/Alicia Vikander/Lily James/Riccardo Scamarcio.
The restaurant world is an obvious high energy setting for drama, comedy and even violence. With the sheer amount of home-cooking shows, restaurant re-do shows, road trip eating shows, and food competitions on television even if you are not watching them you are inundated with them. The enthusiasm and drama of The Great British Bake-Off was of national importance here in London. It’s safe to say that Burnt is correctly set in London, but its boring plot and contrivances make for one bland plate.
Bradley Cooper grins and shouts his way through the film as Gordon Ramsey-esq chef David who has a drug laden dark past just bad enough to make him sexy, but not too bad that he cannot actually recover and chase his Michelin dreams again. David even serves some kind of personal penance in New Orleans and shucks oysters for two years. The opening is so needless you almost wonder if after Jon Favreau’s Chef came out last year that writer Steven Knight was told, ‘nope move it somewhere else can’t have another foodie movie in nola this soon,’ a pity. After seeing Cooper tackle something as challenging as The Elephant Man on stage Burnt feels like a career ditch.
Along David’s recuperation trail is a cameo by Uma Thurman (how much did she work on that accent?) and some cute visits with the ‘voice of reason’ therapist Emma Thompson. Of the moment younger actresses Lily James and Alicia Vikander appear to just disappear again. All to service Sienna Miller as Helene who is so trapped in her ‘supportive woman’ role it might make you want to scream. She at least has much more to do than she did in Foxcatcher, but she still falls for Cooper’s grin and all the film’s contrivances. Matthew Rhys and Omar Sy are admirable friends and foes for Cooper, but who cares?
If there is one saving grace it might be German actor Daniel Bruhl (The Fifth Estate, Rush). His turned-out tight-mouthed maitre de Tony is a slight gleam of sunshine in a dark kitchen. Director John Wells must have seen this and uses him to inject humor and character into scenes. Bruhl is never over the top in a role that could easily have become a parody. Nevertheless, Wells uses so many montages and prep sequences that you end up not salivating for something juicy, but actually begrudging Burnt for not being a better copycat. Did Wells see 2007’s No Reservations? Considering how fantastic his last film, August: Osage Country, was this is a disappointment.