Chef Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) had it all – and lost it. The former enfant terrible of the Paris restaurant scene had earned two Michelin stars and only ever cared about the thrill of creating explosions of taste. To land his own kitchen and that third elusive star though, Jones will need to leave his bad habits behind and get the best of the best on his side, including the beautiful Helene (Sienna Miller). BURNT is a remarkably funny and emotional story about the love of food, the love between two people, and the power of second chances.
"If it's not perfect, throw it out." That's a line of dialogue in 'Burnt', and one that is probably haunting the screenwriter, as this Bradley Cooper vehicle is anything but perfect. While it's hard to fault the acting or even the direction by John Wells, the movie's most problematic element is giving us a group of characters that most audiences are going to dislike, starting with chef extraordinaire Adam Jones (played by Cooper).
Jones has come to London following a career in Paris, where he became world renown, but also got addicted to booze and drugs, leading to his downfall. After spending time in Louisiana shucking oysters (a bit of penance that the movie never fully explains) his arrival in the UK has him tracking down former colleague Tony (Daniel Brüel), and Jones promptly informing him that he'll be taking over the operation of his hotel's restaurant. These early scenes give us a preview of what Jones is like throughout the movie. Selfish, self-important, and what George W. Bush might have called a 'major-league asshole.'
Of course, there isn't anything wrong with having your lead character being an obnoxious jackass. Lots of films have done it, so there's nothing original about 'Burnt' from that standpoint. The difference is that such movies either have a character so interesting you can't take your eyes off him, or one that manages to redeem himself by the end of the film. 'Burnt' goes for the latter path, and fails horribly. The movie would like us to think Adam Jones is a better person as the end credits role, but the truth of the matter is there's no indication he won't go back to his self-centered ways the next time things go bad for him.
The most dishonest thing about 'Burnt' though is what its screenplay tries to pass off as the love story. Jones has his eyes on Helene (Sienna Miller) because of her talents in the kitchen and gets her boss to fire her so he can hire her for his own restaurant. The first night on the job, when things go horribly wrong with service, Jones explodes on his employees, getting right up in Helene's face and even being physically rough with her. She quits, only to be hired back at double her salary (which was already tripled from her prior job, meaning she's probably well into the six-figure range by now!), and only to have Jones tell her she has to work on her daughter's birthday. After all this, not only do the two get into a romance with each other – but Helene actually initiates it. As a male viewer, I was insulted. I'm guessing female viewers will be downright outraged.
The primary driving force of the plot here, though, is Jones' quest to get a third 'Michelin star', which is an excellence award given to restaurants by a French company (yes, the same one that makes those tires!) who send 'inspectors' into establishments to anonymously rate the food. It's the main character's obsession, but it's not particularly an interesting one for the audience. Had 'Burnt' given the Jones an ending more deserving of the way he treated people in the movie, it might have both satisfied viewers more and given the film a much needed edge. Instead, we get a Hollywood sendoff to a character that doesn't deserve one.
However, even after all those negative comments, I can't be totally dismissive of 'Burnt'. It's not poorly acted, and this may be one of the angriest characters we've seen Bradley Cooper portray to date. The movie is also competently directed – far more competent than the screenplay the director has been saddled with. For those reasons – and really only those reasons – I'm giving this one a mild rental recommendation. If one goes into a viewing of this movie in the right frame of mind, they shouldn't come away feeling too 'Burnt'.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Burnt' gets cookin' on Blu-ray in an eco-friendly Elite keepcase, which houses the 50GB disc along with a pair of inserts: one containing a code for an UltraViolet digital copy of the movie, and the other a single-fold advertisement for various cooking and food-related websites, including a recipe for Cacio e Pepe. The Blu-ray is front-loaded with trailers for Carol and Southpaw. The main menu is a montage of footage from the movie, with menu selections running vertically down the bottom left of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is Region A locked.
'Burnt' was shot digitally on Arri Alexa XT Plus equipment and is presented in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio. As transfers of digitally shot films go, the 'Burnt' Blu-ray is a pretty good one, with a nice level of detail throughout. There are some moments in the movie that appear soft – such as the scene over the opening credits – but we learn in the commentary track on this release that such softness was intentional by the director.
Since the vast majority of the scenes in 'Burnt' feature a lot of whites, it's important to note that there's no problem with blowout here. Black levels are solid, if not spectacular, but there are very few darker scenes in the movie to pose an issue. Facial features are defined and skin tones consistent throughout. There are no issues with compression, excessive noise, or aliasing. Overall, this is a nice-looking release.
The featured audio track here is an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio one and, like the video quality, the audio here is nicely done. While the majority of the dialogue is up front, the surrounds are used for a bunch of ambient sounds, not the least of which is the clanking and banging of pots, pans, and other accessories during the kitchen scenes. So while immersiveness isn't always apparent and consistent, there is a feeling of it from time to time. The audio is also free from any obvious glitches and the spoken word is properly mixed with the soundtrack and other aural elements.
In addition to the lossless English track, a Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital track is also an option. Subtitles are available in English SDH and Spanish.
I'm a big fan of Bradley Cooper, but I have to confess that 'Burnt' left a bad taste in my mouth. The movie's biggest problem is that its main character is a narcissistic blowhard with few qualities that an audience can root for or get behind. While the acting and direction are fine, most will want to put this one on the back burner for a rainy day after they've consumed most other viewing options. Rent it.