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Running Time:
1 hour 40 minutes

Rating: R Restricted. Under 17 Requires Accompanying Adult.

Rating Explanation:
for language throughout

Jimmy's Buzz Guide Review:
Despite a few spoonfuls of compelling culinary drama, this is mostly a watery goulash dominated by an unsavory main character and overdone clichés.

Additional Info:
Bradley Cooper ... Adam Jones
Sienna Miller ... Helene
Daniel Brühl ... Tony
Riccardo Scamarcio ... Max
Omar Sy ... Michel
Sam Keeley ... David
Henry Goodman ... Conti
Matthew Rhys ... Reece
Stephen Campbell Moore ... Jack
Emma Thompson ... Dr. Rosshilde
Uma Thurman ... Simone Forth
Lexie Benbow-Hart ... Lily
Alicia Vikander ... Anne Marie
Lily James ... Sara
Sarah Greene ... Kaitlin

Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) is an American who once flew high among the master chefs in Paris but destroyed his career with booze, drugs and womanizing, burning his bridges with virtually all his colleagues, including his now-deceased mentor Jean-Luc and his daughter (Alicia Vikander), who was his partner in excess. After completing a self-imposed penance by shucking literally one million oysters in a New Orleans dive—without ever losing count, which shows what a perfectionist he is!—he’s off to London, where he aims to earn his third Michelin star and justify his life.

Adam is clean and sober, but as quickly becomes clear, he’s the same dictatorial, sharp-tongued guy he always was, ready to explode if his absolutist kitchen standards aren’t met. Still that doesn’t stop old friends he betrayed from rallying around his attempt. There include Tony (Daniel Bruhl), a master maitre ’d now running the mediocre restaurant in his ill father’s hotel; Michel (Omar Sy), former sous chef whose attempt to start a place of his own Adam sabotaged; and Max (Riccardo Scarmarcio), an assistant who is ever so conveniently just getting out of jail. London also happens to be where Adam’s greatest rival, Reece (Matthew Rhys) has set up shop, and our antihero makes a point of visiting his popular establishment to rile him up, just to get the juices flowing, as it were.

Tony hands over his restaurant to Adam—with whom he’s long been in love, we’ll learn—but with some conditions, requiring his unreliable friend to have regular sessions (and drug tests) with his own therapist (Emma Thompson). And Adam even persuades a renowned food critic (Uma Thurman) to drop by for a dinner to boost the place’s opening vibe. But even with Michel and Max on board in the kitchen and some new blood added to the mix—a young, talented fellow (Sam Keeley) and Helene (Sienna Miller), whom another old friend of Adam’s virtually forces to join his staff despite her misgivings—the less-than-inspiring cuisine Adam initially serves up proves a disappointment. It’s only after he and Helene spruce up the menu with innovative touches that the place really takes off, and it’s only a matter of time before their culinary collaboration will lead to something more personal; one can see the inevitable coming to pass when Adam is induced to make a birthday cake for Helene’s darling little daughter Lily (Lexi Benbow-Hart).

It’s the humanizing of Jones reflected in that act that provides the dramatic arc of Burnt. And that could be an entirely satisfactory story if it weren’t hammered home with such unrelenting contrivance. Except for one twist that supposedly destroys Adam’s chance at that third Michelin star—but doesn’t, as it happens, because of a ridiculous coincidence—everything that happens in the script is almost absurdly easy, in a sentimental sitcom way. The last half-hour amounts to a succession of simple solutions to Adam’s problems that come across like boxes on a list being summarily checked off. Tony’s infatuation with him? A couple of clever lines and a kiss handle that. A big debt Adam owes to some mysterious French dealers?  He gets what amounts to a do-over. And the self-destructive manner that puts everybody off? The love of a good woman is all that’s needed to solve that! All of which doesn’t mean, of course, that he doesn’t remain the genius with pots and pans that he always was. Even his greatest rival admits that he’s better than anyone else; in fact, they need him around to encourage them to do better.

It’s precisely these sorts of lazy solutions to the character defects that the script has burdened Jones with that turn Burnt into a soggy, ultimately unpalatable experience. The fault doesn’t lie with Cooper, who flings himself into the role with abandon and delivers the more inventively acerbic lines with relish. Ultimately, however, Jones seems more a caricature of the “hell’s kitchen” sort of chef than the real thing. Meanwhile the rest of the able cast are stuck with parts that are just personalized therapeutic instruments for his recovery. In the end, though, Burnt is a cinematic dish that’s much like Jones’ cooking before Helene gives it an innovative nudge: overly familiar and curiously bland.

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