Friday, October 30, 2015

Burnt Review

Bradley Coopers transition from character actor to leading man has been an interesting one, mainly because it's been interesting to watch how his typical personality (the assured, cocky scoundrel) is utilized in more layered motion pictures than Failure To Launch. Silver Linings Playbook brought Cooper to the field of commanding dramatic performances by making his phlegmatic personality be clashed against outbursts, with a similar sort of temperament surfacing again in 2013's American Hustle. Last years Guardians Of The Galaxy may have been the best dramatic use of Coopers disposition, with the seemingly endless bravado and snark of Rocket Raccoon hiding the characters relentless existential crisis.

With all that being said, the two projects Cooper has starred in this year (Aloha and, the subject of this review, Burnt) feel like throwbacks for the performer, in that they fail to exploit Coopers immense talent to dive deeper into his characters, instead settling for bland surface-level individuals that can't hold a candle to the far more nuanced personas he's taken on in the past three years. Burnt, the third feature film from director John Wells, at least fares far better than Aloha, though it still carries its own set of major flaws to grapple with.

This movies script, written by Steven Knight, gets things started on the wrong foot by starting the story after our lead character, former famous Chef Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper), has already completed his entire character arc, which consists of getting off drugs, booze and cleaning out one million clams. Then he's off to London to act like a know-it-all douchebag to everyone whose unlucky enough to cross his path and to open up a new eatery where he hopes to rebuild his once sterling reputation. There's certainly a way you could make this specific storytelling tactic work, but good God, this is not it.

Not only does this approach sever an opportunity to connect with Adam on an emotional level, but reformed Adam Jones isn't so much a swell dude as much as he is just unpleasantly cocky. Sure, Cooper gets to dish out his natural easygoing charm in early scenes to mildly fun results, but it's hard to imagine any actor making a character this drenched in sourness a likable presence. I wish the film could have alleviated this problematic lead character by taking time to develop its numerous side characters, but nope. Only Sienna Miller (playing Helene, a woman who falls for Adam after he verbally and physically abuses her in his kitchen) is allowed even a scintilla of development, and even then she's pretty much just around to be a trophy for Adam to have once the film reaches its end.

At least the film manages to be visually appealing, especially in when the camera lingers on the various confections and meals Adam and his cohorts are cooking up. Word to the wise, don't see this one (if you plan to at all) on an empty stomach like I did, because good Lord does the food in this movie look glorious. There are various shots throughout the feature that look surprisingly well-crafted, though there's some choppy editing in more intense sequences (namely when the various employees at Adam's restaurant are cooking up meals under insane time constraints) that's far more effective at being jarring than inserting the audience directly into an environment driven by a fervent spirit.

Aside from those luscious shots of delectable food, as well as offering the chance for European actors like Omar Sy and Daniel Bruhl to get major roles in an American motion picture, there's really not much else to say about Burnt. It goes through the motions with so little pizzazz that it feels like the antithesis to its unlikable protagonists desire to make every single one of his meals as perfect as can be. I'm sure Bradley Cooper will star in a number of great movies in the many years of his career to come, but this one is a swing and a miss.

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