Predictable Recipe

Burnt
Galaxy Cinemas
3 out of 5

Burnt stars a ridiculously overqualified cast and it’s full of wonderful-looking gourmet cuisine. And it’s all shot around London’s most iconic sights. Sweet.

A carefully disheveled Bradley Cooper is a bad boy looking for redemption. Cooper is Adam Jones: Once the most exciting chef in Paris, his many addictions drove him out of the City of Lights with little more than his clothes. Three years later, he’s ready for his comeback — but first he has to rebuild a lot of burned bridges.

Jones’ “white whale” is a Michelin three-star review. Unfortunately, during his time away modern cuisine moved forward, and the troubled chef is forced to rely on newbies to catch up. This vulnerability allows him a modicum of humanity — not a small thing for a man who could make Gordon Ramsay cry for his mama.

As long as the film focuses on the food, it sizzles. The preparation, protocols and kitchen politics of a top-tier restaurant are fascinating to watch. (Ramsay and Mario Batali are credited as consultants, by the way.) But the questionable decision to add a romantic subplot, and the perfunctory involvement of the mob, dilute Burnt’s strongest storyline.

Cooper is good throughout, although the role is hardly a stretch. The real problem is all the underutilized actors around him. Emma Thompson barely registers as the chef’s therapist, but that’s nothing compared with Alicia Vikander. Arguably the actress of the year (Ex-Machina, The Danish Girl, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), Vikander has a crummy three minutes of screen time as Jones’ ex-girlfriend. Horrible decision.

If Burnt is a crowd-pleaser it’s because it’s been designed by competent people. It’s like food from a decent chain restaurant: good enough to enjoy but so calculated it’s forgettable.

This was potentially a great meal. Too bad it’s undercooked. /Jorge Ignacio Castillo

2015-10-29