Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Daniel Bruhl, Matthew Rhys, Omar Sy, Emma Thompson, Uma Thurman, Alicia Vikander, Lily James
Directed By: John Wells
Plot: Adam Jones (Cooper) is recognized as one of the best chefs in the world, but he threw it all away for drugs and booze. After rehabbing himself and getting clean, Jones seeks to rebuild his image, and finally be a three-star Michelin chef.
What Works: I think this is one of those films that more people will discover with time. It bombed in theatres. A movie about a Chef? Didn’t we already see Jon Faverau do that? Well, Burnt does it too… and does it just as good as Chef does. It’s success has a lot to do with Cooper’s performance, which is actually one of his best performances. He anchors this movie, and even when you think the movie might be getting stagnant, he keeps it alive with his kinetic energy. I’m not really sure why critics hated this film (29% on Rotten Tomatoes). I stumbled into it on Netflix, and I found myself watching something I really didn’t think I’d enjoy. This is definitely a film I feel a disconnect, because it checked off most of the boxes for me. I even waited a bit before posting my review. I looked at what the other critics were saying, and I just don’t get what they don’t like about this film.
“A macho foodie fantasy with Cooper as a swaggering sex god…”- Well, no. If by Macho, you mean that the male lead is cocky, then you missed the point. Part of this film is his transformation. In the beginning, he believes it is enough that he shed his addictions, and feels entitled to his return. By the end of the film, he’s shed that cocky exterior and learns to be a part of a team. This isn’t a macho film. It’s one mans journey. And at no point is he referred to as a sex god in the present. It is said that he used to sleep around a lot and break hearts, but he doesn’t do that in the current context of the film. People worship him for his knowledge of food, not because he’s a good lay in bed.
“about the comeback of a celebrity chef”- It’s also not that either. Adam Jones despises celebrity chefs, and laments those that go on daytime talk shows and cook up chicken wings. He tries really hard to not have to do that himself, and only when he has to rescue his restaurant does he finally cave in to that “celebrity” image and do a TV show. He’s much more about the food, and achieving recognition within the foodie world, and less so with celebrity recognition.
Another critic mentioned that the film entertained him, yet he still gave it a rotten rating. Why? If it entertained you, it kinda did it’s job, right? Are you not entertained?
Critics lament the close ups of the food. It’s a film about a chef. If you were watching a film about a painter, would you lament closeups of his paintings? I don’t understand what you were expecting.
What Doesn’t Work: The film isn’t perfect. It relies on many tropes, like the “recruitment” trope, where Cooper bounces around a bit trying to get his kitchen staff together. He recruits a few people, who once recruited, become blips in the plot of the rest of the film. That being said, in the short time we did get to know those characters, I felt like I had some grasp of who they were, and I wouldn’t say his kitchen is full of undeveloped supporting characters. This film is really about Adam Jones, and the supporting characters are all there to do just that… support.
Final Word: Honestly, I don’t get the hate for this film. Critics buried a perfectly watchable, and pretty enjoyable film featuring a strong performance from Bradley Cooper. This is just one that baffles me. Sometimes I see a film, and I totally get why critics hated it, and I loved it. Here, I wonder if they even saw the same film, as they’re describing a film with themes that just don’t exist in the film I saw. I think some completely missed the point. It’s not a perfect film, but it’s a pretty good one.
Final Grade: B+