Burnt interested me before I saw it, because it had what looked liked the potential to be an entertaining small film that could go by its own rules. In some ways, that does happen, but it proved to be unable to showcase anything worthwhile. That’s not to say that it’s an absolutely terrible movie. There are some features here that at least some viewers may be able to get satisfaction out of.
We follow Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) as he starts up his life over again. A while back, he was a chef on the rise who many people believed had potential reach above even the two Michelin stars that he had already earned. To get back onto the path that would see him reclaim his life and gain his third star, Jones will have get rid of the bad habits that took him down and put together a team of chefs who are just as hungry (pun intended) as he is to find success and reach for something more.
Naturally, the vast majority of films have subplots. They keep things fresh and allow characters to show bits of who they are or what they stand for. While that’s all good in most cases, Burnt is different. Here there are simply too many subplots that really have no need to be included. As a matter of fact, if you take out one subplot, one of the characters doesn’t even have anything to do. She’s only in a couple of scenes, but they tie her into one of the unnecessary subplots that isn’t needed in any way.
When looking at the usage of the characters outside of Adam Jones, many of them only have small parts anyway. The other characters portrayed by the likes of Uma Thurman and Omar Sy are literally only here to further Jones’ main story arc. As a matter of fact, Thurman’s Simone is so irrelevant, I literally forgot she was in the movie until I thought about it for a little while after I had watched it.
Also, you’ll notice that including those characters that I mentioned, everyone in Burnt basically exist solely for the Adam Jones character in some way. I know the movie is about him, but at least make it seem as if a few of these characters aren’t alive just to exist in the world of the protagonist. Doing this allows these guys to actually seem like authentic people with families and stuff. Maybe even show them wanting to do more than spend time around Adam Jones while cooking or being belittled by him and his humongous ego.
On the positive side of things, Burnt does show just how neurotic, militant and narcissistic some chefs can be. I’m assuming that research was done beforehand in order to get an actual feel for who these guys are and how they behave. If that’s the case, these guys could probably be tough to deal with in every aspect of life. Seeing how obsessive they are here makes you believe that this is a profession that isn’t for everyone. Sure, we all like to eat, but it takes a special person to do this job according to what’s seen here.
Overall, Burnt is fine at its best and nothing more. When looking at its subject matter, I don’t believe it could ever reach much higher than that. I do think giving the other characters more depth and making Adam Jones at least somewhat likable could have helped in improving the film. Maybe viewers could root for him more if that were the case. The only other way to make it better could have been to make it dramatically sensational, but that approach would have likely left Burnt feeling overcooked due to its exaggerated aftertaste. No one wants that.
Director: John Wells
Film Length: 100 minutes
Release Date: October 30, 2015
Distributor: The Weinstein Company