Burnt (2015) – Second Chances, Love and Redemption in “Hell’s Kitchen”


Directed by John Wells (August: Osage County) and written by British writer/director Steven Knight (Locke), Burnt stars Bradley Cooper as Adam Jones, a man who used to be one of the top chefs in Paris. After squandering all his talents in sex, drugs and booze, he disappears and returns after a 3-year long sabbatical to reclaim his past glory. After a self-imposed penance in New Orleans, Adam returns to a London hotel run by his former maître d’ Tony (Daniel Bruhl). Everyone is surprised to find him alive after all the stories they’ve heard about him. Adam is a perfectionist and also an arrogant jerk. It’s his self-destructive tendencies and relentless quest for perfection that led to him destroying not only his career but those of everyone that worked with him as well. After convincing Tony that he has been sober for a while, he is taken aboard. He manages to get some of his former colleagues to work for him once again, despite everything that he had done to them.


He also manages to hire Helena (Sienna Miller), a sous-chef who works for another restaurant. Helena hesitates initially given his behavior but accepts the job and gradually earns his respect and admiration. This naturally leads to the predictable yet pleasantly welcome romance element that doesn’t feel forced or out of place (I’m a sucker for romance elements). Adam convinces Tony that he won’t let him down this time and that he very much intends to get a third Michelin star. Considering that this is a film about food, some sumptuous shots of food will be expected and I can say that there are enough in here to make your mouth water. It is quite similar to 2014’s Chef but this is more of a serious and edgy version. Also accompanying are scenes that are present in some of the other food movies that we’ve already seen before, like for example, Adam trying to impress the food critics. Uma Thurman has a cameo as one of these food critics.  And so has Alicia Vikander who plays Adam’s former girlfriend and daughter of a well-known chef that he used to work for.


Emma Thompson has a supporting role as his therapist. One of the highlights of the film is when Adam unleashes his wrath on Helena (Sienna Miller), the entire staff and all the food and utensils placed there. Now, this a scene that would make Gordon Ramsay proud. Ramsay happens to be one of the executive producers on this film so I wouldn’t be surprised if I found out that Cooper had based his performance on him. It’s not a pleasant scene to watch but Cooper’s intense and committed performance is mesmerizing to watch. The strength of this film comes mainly from all the actors more than the plot. This is a good ol’ tale of an unlikable guy with seemingly no redeeming features whatsoever trying to mend his ways. I can’t believe it has such a ridiculously low rating on rottentomatoes. It’s definitely not a masterpiece but it’s not a terrible film either. It’s one of the best feel-good movies I’ve seen. I’ve heard some chefs say that it got the behind-the-scenes of a restaurant kitchen right.



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