I don’t know what this says about me, but watching “Burnt” I couldn’t help wishing there were more movies that had the guts for the protagonist not to ultimately reach his goal. Having a character do his or her best but not quite make it, would be the best argument for why it’s how you play the game, not if you win. Anyway, “Burnt” sticks to a traditional character arc, in which a former bad boy learns lessons about how “It’s not a sign of weakness to need people,” and thus grows up. There are decent performances, but no surprises plot-wise here.
In the movie, Bradley Cooper plays Adam Jones, a chef who is well-known both for his innovative approach to cuisine and his trainwreck of a history, which involves doing just about every drug invented, getting into brawls with his rivals after they both commit sabotage, and sleeping with all his female colleagues (including one who is a lesbian). To further ram home that Bradley’s a rebel without a cause, he’s seen zooming around on a motorcycle, when he’s not in the midst of a montage where he fondles meat. fruits and veggies. When we meet him, Bradley has begun to put his life back on track, including seeing a doctor who monitors his blood. The doctor/therapist is played by Emma Thompson, and the trailer made me think she was going to have a bigger role, but she is only in a few scenes. He’s also gone to work for a colleague he knows (Daniel Bruhl), a prissy maître-d who hires Bradley because he wants to impress his dying father (though there’s actually another reason). Now he has to deal with thugs who he still owes from his past, as well as a rival (Matthew Rhys), an attractive colleague (Sienna Miller), and the possibility of securing three Michelin stars.
At first, Bradley does not come off as that bad of a boss (in my view), but then someone removes the halibut from the pan a fraction of a second too late, and he flips out, making Steve Jobs, as recently portrayed by Michael Fassbender, look like a Care Bear. Jobs might agree with Bradley’s character’s motto: “If it’s not perfect, throw it out,” but at least, he wasn’t shown hurling things at his hapless staff and forcing them to only answer with “Yes, (sir)” when especially peeved. But of course, there is a reason why Bradley is a dick, and it has to do with his bad childhood. Fortunately, the drama is on whether or not Bradley will achieve the three star rating, and we barely learn anything about his childhood. In the end, Bradley learns how to be a team player, achieves his goal and presumably lives happily ever after. This seems to be due more to the Michelin rating than therapy, but hey, whatever floats your boat.