Burnt has all the ingredients for the makings of an exemplary film but, sadly, its finished product is undercooked. The star vehicle for thrice Oscar nominated Bradley Cooper feels oddly dated (and not just because he’s essentially reprising his role from the short lived television series Kitchen Confidential), formulaic, and only manages to infuse some unique flavors (if you will) in its slapdash third act’s frank depiction of addiction.
Recycling plot points from his script for The Hundred-Foot Journey, screenwriter Steven Knight, (yes the same Steven Knight who wrote the brilliant Locke and Eastern Promises), spins a tale of redemption that the audience would be far more invested in if any of the characters were credibly authentic and not half baked.
Following a stay of self-exile and self-punishment in New Orleans, bad boy chef extraordinaire Adam Jones (Cooper) returns to London in a bid to mend past relationships and to try to garner an elusive third Michelin star. First, he convinces Tony (Daniel Bruhl), the son of his deceased mentor, and owner of a posh restaurant, to hire him as his head chef. Then he brings on a kitchen staff that includes conflicted former colleague Michel (Omar Sy) and the bull-headed yet insecure single mother Helene (Sienna Miller, reuniting with her American Sniper co-star) as his sous chef. It doesn’t take long, however, before the self-destructive Jones is “burned” by his past demons and must take ownership of his fateful flaws.
Director John Wells (August: Osage County, but perhaps best known for his work on television shows such as ER) capably balances the altering tones of the film, and the acting is serviceable, but it’s a shame that the characters aren’t more nuanced. Three of our favorite actresses-Emma Thompson, Alicia Vikander, and Uma Thurman-each appear briefly and shine in their respective roles but the rest of the film is an easily forgettable cinematic offering.