The makers of Burnt have to be commended for their persistence. They dragged the project kicking and screaming through nearly ten years of production malaise until we got the film showing now at cinemas. Sadly their persistence would better have been directed elsewhere as the resultant film is an anachronistic relic, further weakened by poor performances and a ragged script.
Central to this mess is Adam Jones, played by Bradley Cooper, a tortured culinary genius in the eyes of his peers, but to the viewer he is patently a sociopathic tyrant. To explain the disconnect here, we need look no further than the involvement of Gordon Ramsay as one of the films consultant chefs. His trademark fury is here channeled through the protagonist who is a one man wrecking ball in his expensively-remodeled kitchen, assaulting staff, food and utensils alike.
We find one-time bad boy, Jones, attempting to overcome the tempestuous unpredictability of his youth, in self-imposed purgatory shucking a million oysters in New Orleans. Sadly this is not to prove successful as he continues to be a caustic influence on those around him, professionally and personally. The most inane and infuriating sub-plot which gives a hint as to how wayward the film becomes, is that of the self-hating maître d’ besotted with the unattainable Jones. The redeeming feature of this plot line is that it provides meagre distraction from a baffling story about chaotic chefs trying to conquer unscaled heights of gustatory achievement with the supposedly essential tools of sous-vide cooking baths, frying pans and untrammeled rage.
In a film so rife with follies and jarringly poor choices it is most unforgivable that we are presented with the contemptible cliché that the only way to draw out excellence is though terror and intimidation. If you are going to place a vision of contemporary kitchen culture at the heart of your script then it helps for it not to be so risibly outdated.
Image: El Hormiguero; Flickr.com