Finds fine din­ing is not nec­es­sar­ily a recipe for a big screen suc­cess

Harefield Gazette - - LEISURE -

ASMORGASBORD of un­flat­ter­ing culi­nary ad­jec­tives could hap­pily gar­nish John Wells’ drama set against the fiery back­drop of Lon­don’s fine din­ing scene.

Half-baked, tepid, un­der­sea­soned – all are de­served for a film that asks us to root for a bro­ken man with noth­ing to lose, then hands him re­demp­tion on a sil­ver plat­ter.

“I gave up drink­ing as well as sniff­ing, snort­ing, in­ject­ing, lick­ing yel­low frogs... and women,” ca­su­ally ex­plains the pro­tag­o­nist.

Re­lay­ing his spec­tac­u­lar fall from grace in a haze of booze, drugs and wan­ton wom­an­is­ing via ex­pos­i­tory di­a­logue might be dra­mat­i­cally ex­pe­di­ent, but it robs us of the op­por­tu­nity to sym­pa­thise.

Screen­writer Steven Knight, who painted vivid por­traits of the cap­i­tal in Dirty Pretty Things and East­ern Prom­ises, fails to turn up the heat on his thinly sketched char­ac­ters, barely achiev­ing a sim­mer as al­le­giances fray in pur­suit of an elu­sive third Miche­lin star.

At his peak, Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) was a rock star of the culi­nary scene at a restau­rant in Paris led by leg­endary chef Jean-Pierre.

Then he threw it all away, wreck­ing re­la­tion­ships with many of the peo­ple who helped him as­cend those dizzy heights in­clud­ing JeanPierre’s daugh­ter, Anne Marie (Ali­cia Vikan­der).

Adam seeks atone­ment in New Or­leans, where he shucks one mil­lion oys­ters, then re­turns to Lon­don, where he forces his way into the kitchen of a fail­ing restau­rant owned by the fa­ther of his old maitre d’, Tony (Daniel Bruhl).

Ar­ro­gant as usual, Adam prom­ises to turn the eaterie around and re­cruits a ta­lented team in­clud­ing former Parisian col­leagues Michel (Omar Sy) and Max (Ric­cardo Sca­mar­cio), bril­liant sous chef He­lene (Si­enna Miller) and wet­be­hind-the-ears David (Sam Kee­ley).

De­mons of the past re­turn to haunt Adam and he con­tends with self-doubt as well as loan sharks and the peo­ple he glee­fully of­fended in­clud­ing sharp-tongued food critic Si­mone Forth (Uma Thur­man) and ri­val chef Reece (Matthew Rhys).

Burnt has all the in­gre­di­ents of a tasty yarn, in­clud­ing a strong lead per­for­mance from Cooper and or­gas­mic shots of food prepa­ra­tion.

Alas, some­thing is amiss in di­rec­tor John Wells’ kitchen be­cause his fin­ished dish is sim­plis­tic and bland, lack­ing any sur­pris­ing flavours to keep us en­gaged.

Lon­don thrums with vi­tal­ity through his lens and Emma Thomp­son en­joys an an­i­mated sup­port­ing role as the an­a­lyst, who helps Adam ac­knowl­edge his in­se­cu­ri­ties.

Time and again, the chef loudly be­rates his staff for slop­pi­ness, telling them that if their food falls short of per­fec­tion, it should be thrown away and pre­pared afresh.

Had Wells and screen­writer Knight fol­lowed this same ad­vice, their pic­ture might never have been made. Di­rec­tor: Star­ring:

n SIMMERING NICELY: Bradley Cooper and Si­enna Miller, be­low

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