Burnt (2015)

(Video on Demand, January 2016) The world of food has been so tremendously vulgarized to the masses in the last decade that Burnt arrives not as a celebration but a bit of a side dish. As the story of a brash three-star chef who comes back to haute cuisine after some time in the trenches atoning for past mistakes, Burnt has the framework of an incisive look in the life of a professional chef … but doesn’t make all that much of it. Bradley Cooper’s usual mix of cockiness and charisma serves him well as the protagonist, while some of the supporting players (Omar Sy, Sienna Miller, Daniel Bruhl) do just as well. Many of the film’s details, scenes and quips also work, but there’s a maddening sense that Burnt is not going as far as it could have. Nor does it avoid a familiar narrative arc culminating in the protagonist hitting rock bottom. Similarities to Chef, as different as the films (and subject matter) can be, are inevitable and not to Burnt’s advantage. Whereas Chef made viewers warm, happy and hungry, Burnt leaves cold, annoyed and full. It’s not exactly a bad or unpleasant movie, but it suffers from too many other points of comparison, too many familiar elements and too little risk-taking.

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