You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. Presumably you can’t do so without breaking a few dishes too. That’s the takeaway from this film about a badly behaved celebrity chef seeking his third Michelin star — though don’t expect anything as ordinary as an omelette here.
Masterchef already tells us that courtesy and cuisine rarely mix, with the steam sizzling off cooking stations barely matching that let off by chefs encountering a dish they don’t life. Masterchef and other cooking shows also tell us that kitchens are pressure cookers, with orders being thrown about as frequently as the meat to be cooked. What they don’t tell us is that plates, chairs, pans are also up for sacrifice in the course of a celebrity chef’s day out, particularly when staring down a counterpart. Many go that way in the course of Burnt.
Still, and that’s the film’s weakest link, Bradley Cooper’s Adam ‘The Notorious’ Jones gets barely a stain on his apron as he marches towards cooking-dom’s ultimate goal. Yes there are ghosts to be slayed, debts to be paid, beatings to be had, but however much he insults and assails, a helping hand and at least three people in love with him are never too far away.
Adam is in London two years after having a meltdown in Paris sparked by booze and drugs (“sniffed, snorted, injected in”), during the course of which he has lost a restaurant and acquired two goons on his tail. He is sober now and believes he has a shot at a resurrection. His first stop is Tony (Bruhl), who has the money to finance his dreams, followed by a series of talented people, some of whom he has worked with before. The new face that he assiduously pursues is Helena (Miller), an underpaid cook and a mother of one.
The rest is consistent with what to expect from a film about wayward talent and redemption, with one lady love thrown in — even though the film itself proclaims that “consistency is death”. Bruhl and Miller are woefully underused.
There are many beautiful shots of dishes that seem pretty inconsequential in size — but we are not expected to voice those opinions in public. There is awful behaviour and lot of hand-wringing over things left unattended for a minute — but we are expected to ignore the first for the second. And there are some instructive episodes about how Michelin men come to judge, unexpected and unannounced, how cooking stations are soaped and scrubbed, as well as how food at a restaurant should make you “stop eating” and, on the other hand, “sick with longing”.
At least that explains the size of those dishes.
Meanwhile, the only person actually interested in eating is Helena’s daughter Lily. In Jones’s duty, Helena is so tired that she can’t rustle up a breakfast for Lily before school. And, no, at home, you can’t de-stress by hurling that plate across the wall.
Directed by John Wells
Starring Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Daniel Bruhl, Emma Thompson, Matthew Rhys