Friday, October 30, 2015

Movie Review #332: "Burnt" (2015)

Director: John Wells
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
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Professional chef Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) has spent the last 2 years paying a self-imposed penance of shucking one million oysters in New Orleans due to his past drug and alcohol abuse. Now ready to make his comeback, he must first make amends with friends from his past, as well as discover the most promising new talent to work at his new restaurant in London to fulfill his culinary goal of earning his third Michelin star.

So, 2015's version of "The Hundred-Foot Journey," but cast with all white people, plus a movie version of Gordon Ramsay and a bunch of overly dramatic fodder?

"Burnt," which was almost called "Adam Jones" in (dis)honor of its main character (because we all know movies with names as titles do exceedingly well, right "John Carter"???), is this year's "Chef," minus the father-son bonding, plus a huge asshole for a main character. As you can see based on the few films we just referenced, cooking movies are a pretty common occurrence in Hollywood as of late, and "Burnt" seems to share many of the same plot points and even ultimately the main goal as one of them. Both "Burnt" and "The Hundred-Foot Journey" involve a chef who has had some issue with substance abuse and alienation of friends. Both must make amends and learn to work with others again to win their third Michelin Star. Bradley Cooper's character Adam Jones is seemingly inspired by Gordon Ramsey's television antics on shows like "Hell's Kitchen" as he often yells at and berates his staff if they are making or serving anything less than perfection. He will throw plates around the kitchen, toss food out whenever it's not 100%, and even physically attacks a few of his employees at one point. All of this begs the question, if this is what it's like to be a chef, why would anyone want to subject themselves to that sort of life?!

A lot of the film focuses on Adam's road to redemption which feels a little more than overly-dramatic at many points. Jones has a rivalry with a chef he used to work with named Reece, played by Matthew Rhys. There is one scene that seems unrealistically over-the-top when, upon hearing a rave review from a newspaper critic about Adam's new restaurant, Reece destroys all of the tables and dishes in his entire restaurant. Talk about an overreaction. Several portions of this film feel this way, from Adam getting targeted and beat up by the drug dealers to whom he still owes money, to when Adam and Helene, played by Sienna Miller, drop their just purchased fish on the ground during a tender moment's embrace, and some of the more intense food scenes that make "Burnt" feel more like a war zone than a restaurant kitchen. Beyond the theatrics of its drama, this film is a bit poorly paced and feels longer than it is. By comparison, last week, "Steve Jobs" came out and was 20 minutes longer than "Burnt," and yet "Burnt" somehow felt much more tedious and tiresome to watch. Woven into the drama and length is some very disjointed, clumpy storytelling. For one, multiple characters appear and are introduced once, never to be seen or heard from again. Case in point, Lily James, Uma Thurman, and Alicia Vikander are all relegated to one or two inconsequential scenes and have literally no other point to be in this film. These roles could have been played by any Jane, Dick, or Harriett and it would have been the same movie regardless. Other characters are treated as if they might be major players, like Sam Keeley's David, but spend almost the entire movie doing little more than filling out the background ensemble. Really, the main cast consists of the aforementioned Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller, who lack the viable, necessary chemistry to keep the film running smoothly during its more unnecessary, predictably forced romantic moments, Daniel Bruhl's Tony, who we love and is really the only great thing about this film, and Omar Sy's Michel, a former and present colleague of Adam's. The acting isn't even that great. It's decent enough, but with Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper and Golden Globe nominees Sienna Miller and Daniel Bruhl in your cast, we expected to be at least a little wowed and were severely disappointed. Actually, that's how we felt the entire movie. It's pretty much a cluttered mess of plot points spliced with long sequences of pretty shots of preparing food, folding napkins, and people "mmmmm"-facing after they take a bite of food.

While 29% on the Tomatometer seems like it's a little "way harsh, Tai," "Burnt" is ultimately messy and can sometimes be poorly executed, but it's nowhere near "Jem and the Holograms" bad. This is simply a middle of the road film we'll forget existed in a week's time.

My Rating: 5/10
BigJ's Rating: 5.5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~6.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~29%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.

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