Movie review of “Burnt”: Bradley Cooper stars in this charmless — and borderline offensive — culinary calamity. Rating: ½ star out of 4.
Mario Batali and Marcus Wareing consulted on “Burnt,” so the intricacies of a restaurant kitchen are rendered creditably, unlike the rest of the bad-boy chef drama. The chef in question is played by a charmless, robotic Bradley Cooper. The pat explanation for his pat past — meteoric rise, addiction, downfall and cleanup for a comeback — is: “He had a difficult childhood, you know.”
Now he’s on a mission to get three Michelin stars, one that feels like an endless storyboard meeting of Hollywood’s numbest minds. The dialogue ranges from cheesy (“We should be dealing in culinary orgasms”) to nonsensical (“People eat because they’re hungry — I want to make people stop eating”). Cardboard-cutout supporting characters include the rival (another egomaniacal plate-thrower, Matthew Rhys), the love interest (a strong-willed but coincidentally super-sexy sous chef, Sienna Miller) and the business partner (nemesis/best friend/it’s complicated, Daniel Brühl).
But the film’s not just formulaic, it’s also offensive. The conceit that the world’s top chefs are mercurial bullies who — whoops — fall into heroin-holes is only one of a full set of insulting, dated stereotypes. Cooper physically assaults Miller while yelling obscenities in her face in front of the entire staff; she — whoops — falls in love with him anyway. Uma Thurman turns in a cameo as a food critic who slept with the putatively irresistible Cooper even though she’s a lesbian. There’s even a soupçon of racism in a sabotage subplot.
Movie Review ½
‘Burnt,’ with Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Daniel Brühl, Matthew Rhys. Directed by John Wells, from a screenplay by Steven Knight. 100 minutes. Rated R for language throughout. Several theaters.
For a film about a perfectionist who had a difficult childhood seeking three Michelin stars, allow me to recommend “For Grace,” the documentary about Chicago chef Curtis Duffy. It’s slow in parts, but offers genuine humanity, hold the facile redemption. Duffy just garnered three Michelin stars for the second year. As for whether the chef in “Burnt” earns his in the end, well, what do you think?