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REVIEW — “Burnt”

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“Burnt” is the kind of drama that should have everyone’s interest: Amazing cast, great writer/director, nice location, and it’s all about food! However, it fails to deliver in a few different areas. Despite the cast knocking their roles out of the park, and being extremely believable, the characters weren’t developed enough. Add to this that the focus on the food was minimal, which is surprising given how little focus was spent on the actual plot and character development. From start to finish it plays like a darker and more serious version of the far superior “Chef,” starring Jon Favreau, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing.

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We are introduced to Bradley  Cooper’s character, Adam Jones, some years after a disaster/disgrace that took place in Paris. He is a 2-star Michelin chef, but is in New Orleans shucking 1 million oysters as a self-induced punishment (this is irrelevant as it’s never given any credence by the writers). Once he completes his task he takes off for London to earn his much deserved third Michelin star, only it isn’t deserved and we couldn’t be rooting for a worse person. He ruined and sabotaged the lives of everyone in his immediate circle while in Paris, but within the span of a month he has his entire crew back together and admiring him again, pretty convenient. They write this off with some throwaway dialogue, and an actually really amazing twist towards the end, but then they drag that through the mud by making it worthless.

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The cast in this is rock solid, and I feel bad that they all tried so hard for such a mediocre film. Cooper, Sienna Miller, Omar Sy and the rest of the cast look to feel right at home in a professional kitchen environment, and when you hear about all the work they put in with behind-the-scenes training it makes sense. However, excellent performances don’t always make an excellent film (look at the horrendous “August: Osage County“). I do give Daniel Bruhl (upcoming Baron Zemo from “Captain America: Civil War”) a lot of credit. He took what could have just been a stiff boss type of role, and gave it a lot of heart and soul. The guy is an amazing actor, and someone to always watch out for.

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The writing is where everything just comes crumbling down. Aside from being an almost carbon copy, though R-rated, version of many culinary movie predecessors, it doesn’t even take pride in the development it should have had. Throughout the story we are meant to be seeing signs of change from our lead, but they really don’t come until the last 20 minutes or so. This would have been fine, but the writers took what could have been an amazing stepping stone for the lead, brought on by a twist with one of the other characters, and toss it out the window minutes later with a throwaway and predictable happy ending. By choosing to not leave the ending open and ambiguous it forces the audience to detract the feelings we had; that the character had actually learned and grown. We get to watch this jerk be an asshole to people all movie, and then get exactly what he wants in the end without actually paying any kind of a price. Even the throwaway plot interruption of gangsters from “the old days” leave him unscathed as someone else pays his debts for him. These many useless plot additions, including one with Sienna Miller’s daughter that is pure plot device, muddle and slow down the progression of the already weak story.

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Basically, what we have here is an R-rated, but lower quality, version of many better films, and it’s the writers’ fears of not having a clear happy ending that really ruins it. If the writers had been gutsy enough to stick to their guns, and been willing to trim a lot of the by-the-numbers fat, we could have had a unique experience that challenges the viewer instead of spoon feeding them a weak happy ending. The cast was amazing, the scenery was great (London always makes for some visceral environments), and the music during the food scenes was spot on (makes me want to watch Netflix’s “Chef’s Table” again). However, the weak writing, story, and pacing make this a one time view for me. 3/5

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