Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Daniel Bruhl
Director: John Wells
Rating: 2 stars
Burnt by John Wells is a real-life culinary movie where the drama fails in comparison to the tantalising delicacies seen on the screen. Bradley Cooper plays Adam Jones, a chef who gets involved in drugs and alcohol and jeopardises his career. In his bid to return and reclaim the venerated three-star rating after remaining sober for more than two years, Adam is helped by the same people he betrayed earlier. Cooper’s Adam is too noisy, arrogant and ruthlessly ambitious. Sienna Miller, who plays Helene, brings to the kitchen a balancing act, not just in the flavours, but between the lead characters as well. Most interactions between the protagonists are filtered through a series of clichés though a few moments are interesting.
The kitchen is a different world altogether. The movie does deserve some admiration for its depiction of the highly competitive nature of business when it comes to fine dining, and the extent that people are willing to go in order to secure the coveted top positions. One wonders the amount of acoustic treatment the restaurants have to do with their walls. John Wells could have done better if the movie just interacted with the audience; it does not and you feel like you are simply peeping into the kitchen without anyone even noticing you. You see the wonderful preparations, their chaos and the cleanup. You may get some inspiration to get back to cooking, but that’s as much as the film can do to you.
And for those looking to get inspired to start a fine dining business are bound to be disappointed. A few French techniques, but mostly lingering on the surface of it. Throughout its runtime, the film reiterates its belief in the qualities of persistence and craft — lessons relevant to any business. The movie is released with an A certificate. Largely, as such, the rating is senseless. When the movie is over, you would really try hard to find a reason for the “A” certificate. One is reminded of the one kiss between Bradley Cooper and Daniel Bruhl, who plays an old friend and the owner of the fine dining restaurant that Bradley spearheads. He still has the hots for him, and you see him lusting after Bradley.
Perhaps a little more drama could have been good for the movie, or a different mix of people. In his quest for the three-star rating, Bradley begins gathering his best men. Here, one feels as if he is going for the kill. When Omar Sy betrays Bradley, it feels like a cliché; also, when he is standing on the bridge and throws away his diary it feels the same. However, when Matthew Rhys, playing Reece the competitor, cooks breakfast for Bradley the film seems a bit different. The photography is excellent. Adriano Goldman, the Brazillian cinematographer, moves deftly in tense situations in cramped up spaces. He manages to keep it soothing to the eyes while bringing out the unique colours and shades of the culinary delights presented on screen.
The writer is founder, Lightcube Film Society