‘Burnt’ too charred, definitely not well done

UNTITLED JOHN WELLS PROJECT

(Photo courtesy of The Weinstein Company) Bradley Cooper puts his cooking talents to the test in “Burnt.”

BY ROGER THOMAS
Film Critic

Movies about food and the people who create delicious meals are in a genre of the their own.
It seems almost every year there is at least one, and often times more films about edible delights. When I reviewed “Chef” in 2014, I wrote about several movies that focus on the creation of tasty delicacies and those were only the ones Google helped me remember. Here are a few others: “Julie and Julia,” “The Hundred-Foot Journey,” and “The Lunchbox.”
The new film “Burnt” is another dish on the menu when one is collecting the “food films” for a list. “Burnt” tells the story of a chef who was once on the track to great success. Somewhere along the way, he made truly bad choices which squelched his potential.
Bradley Cooper stars as Chef Adam Jones. He returns to London with the hope of becoming as successful as he once was. There are quite a few obstacles between him and future accomplishments.
Cooper has done a lot of great work in recent years. He has three consecutive Oscar nominations for “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012), “American Hustle” (2013) and “American Sniper” (2014). He will not get his fourth for this film.
However, he does have another chance in 2015 because “Joy” has not yet been released. In “Joy,” Cooper will once again be acting with Jennifer Lawrence and being directed by David O. Russell. Russell has directed Cooper in two of this three Oscar nods.
Ultimately, Cooper is not the main problem of “Burnt.” The problem is the film is only interesting when food is being prepared. The collective dishes presented during this film are enticing; and the methods that create these meals are equally captivating.
There were also some supporting characters. If they had been given more to do, the film could have been better. But alas, most of the attention stayed on Jones.
Sienna Miller plays Helene an assistant chef. Her character is probably the most interesting in the film, but deserves someone better than Jones and a better plotline than having a role in the attempt to save this man.
The simple explanation of why Jones is not a compelling character is he is never convincing as anything but a jerk. When his life is threatened, one wonders if the film will be better if he does die. The goal he has set for his career is all but meaningless in the midst of this less than appealing plot.
I had nothing invested in whether he would achieve his goal or not. The climax offered no emotional punch.
Then there is the storyline with his former friend from Paris. That whole subplot would only happen in a movie, a mediocre film at that. This perhaps is the greatest weakness of all in “Burnt.” The film seems to have only two types of resolution: either the plot point is wholly predictable or it is absurd. Sometimes it is so weak it ends up being both.
We are approaching the best season for films. There are countless titles coming at film lovers with rapid speed. Most of them will eclipse a film like “Burnt,” even the weaker ones.
So unless you really like Cooper, or you want to watch amazing dishes being prepared, there is very little reason to see “Burnt.” Save your money for the big holiday releases.

  Roger Thomas is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association. He reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.

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