By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — With three Oscar nominations in three years, Bradley Cooper (The Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, American Sniper) is piling up the artistic acknowledgements while positively oozing movie-star charisma.
In the culinary dramedy, Burnt, Cooper stars as a high-end, bad-boy chef named Adam Jones, a gifted but self-destructive, hotheaded two-star Michelin celebrity chef.
Jones is jonesing for that elusive third star and will do just about anything and step over just about anyone to get it.
Having been disgraced on the Paris restaurant scene, he gives up his array of vices, doing penance by shucking oysters in New Orleans, and attempts a restaurant comeback in London.
But there is a whole pantry full of chickens that will soon come home to roost.
The supporting ensemble — never more than seconds away from a reverential “Yes, Chef” retort — also get the chance to register, but barely and obliquely. That includes not only Sienna Miller (reuniting with her American Sniper co-star) as the single mom, saucier, and romantic interest; but Daniel Bruhl as the lovelorn maitre’d; Emma Thompson as Adam’s psychotherapist; Uma Thurman as a discerning restaurant critic; Alicia Wikander as a Jones ex; and Omar Sy, Richard Rankin, and Riccardo Scamarcio as chefs of various sorts.
Director John Wells (August: Osage Country, The Company Men) shows us an appropriately generous amount of food preparation, although not enough to make our mouths water, but he keeps the cutting so rapid and attention-deficit fractured that we sometimes wish he would slow things down and let us simply observe kitchen technique.
The screenplay by Steven Knight (who also wrote The Hundred-Foot Journey, another food film about a Michelin star), based on a story by Michael Kalesniko, has a few credibility missteps, but relies on the dependable Cooper, playing an insufferable character, to skate us over any thin ice. And there’s plenty.
As the loved and loathed Adam, Cooper makes the combining of arrogance and vulnerability look like – well, duck soup. It’s that easy for him. Even though the script itself overplays his eruptive, obsessive perfectionism. Of course, helping to make up for that is Cooper’s chemistry with Miller, which is ample and enjoyable to observe.
Adam Jones’ redemption may not offer unpredictability or surprise – although there’s a twist or two along the way – but it shows us to our table and doesn’t let us leave hungry.
So we’ll broil 2½ stars out of 4 for a fun, anything-but-fast food flick. Burnt is overcooked and less than filling. But not only isn’t it burnt, it’s still sufficiently tasty.