Movie Review: Burnt -- Good Intention, but Misses

Burnt starring Bradley Cooper is about a chef trying to earn his third Michelin star. But it is really the story of an alcoholic/addict's struggle to maintain sobriety while his past follows him like the black eye he sports. Adam Jones (Cooper) has been burnt by his past. Freeing himself from its criminal and spiritual grips is only possible when Cooper stops fighting and decides to try to fit in with others.

Adam Jones was once a top chef in Paris, but due to his addictions, he loses his restaurant and respect. He moves to New Orleans to begin a new life and resurfaces in London as a chef at a top restaurant whose maitre d' is Tony( Daniel Bruhl). Bruhl's acting (The Fifth Estate, Rush) is seamless and adds compassion to his position of coddling and working with Cooper's diva behavior. Plates are thrown and food spatters in Adam's outbursts of rage lingering in his newly sober character. Helene (Sienna Miller) is Adam's love interest and adds touching moments of how difficult it is to cope with a newly sober individual. Miller (American Sniper) has the kind of natural beauty and power that holds her every thought in her expressive eyes. One look from Helene to Adam cables her intentions. She keeps Adam rooted and able to continue his role as chef after his outrageous breakdown.

Steven Jones has written Burnt, this before and after sober saga, which unfortunately does not lose its sanctimonious tone. It is interesting to see a journey to the land of sobriety which is much like the land of Oz for any practicing alcoholic/ addict as well as normal drinkers, but alas not to have a preachy tone in this story is difficult.

Restaurants are resplendent with violent chef's most noteworthy the chef of Patrick Terrail's Hollywood Ma Maison who strangled Dominique Dunne, famed author Nick Dunne's beloved daughter. To the horror of the Hollywood community this chef spent only a few years in jail for his crime. Burnt needed more drama which real life tragically has provided in the restaurant biz. Throwing plates and getting a black eye from drug dealers owed money does not a plot make.

John Wells directs Burnt with a good tempo but at one point the black eye which Adam has in one part of a scene in the kitchen is missing in another part of the same scene and so the matching was not professional. Also why Helene is asked by Adam to taste a sauce when she is on a break smoking does not ring true. Why would obsessive/compulsive chef Adam ask an employee who has a cigarette dangling out of her mouth to give her opinion of a sauce? Makes no sense. The director and writers should have caught this. Whereas the cinematography is splendid as the food looks so good you leave the theatre hungry.

And while there was applause at the end of the screening of Burnt, I feel it would have been more deserving if the sobriety message were less heavy handed and more honest in its struggle. Sobriety is a tough journey and not the one, two, three effort that Adam Jones travels in Burnt. A rewrite might give Burnt the Three Stars its intentions deserve. Getting sober and staying sober are wonders to achieve and not easy to tell in a 100 minutes without appearing self-righteous.