Bradley Cooper in Burnt. (SK Pictures)
Bradley Cooper in Burnt. (SK Pictures)

What it's about:

A disgraced American chef, forced to leave Paris thanks to a destructive lifestyle of drugs and booze, sets out to redeem himself by being awarded the coveted “Michelin 3 stars” by becoming head chef of an old friend's respected restaurant.

What we thought:

I'm not much of a foodie so excuse the cliched metaphor but, for all of its charms, Burnt is more hors d'oeuvre than entree. It's tasty enough and it's not badly prepared, but it ultimately leaves me hungry and wanting more. Much like the dainty gourmet dishes in the film itself, in fact.

Bradley Cooper returns to a role not too dissimilar from one of his earlier performances as a chef in the short lived TV comedy, Kitchen Confidential, but he has obviously racked up quite the resume since. He is, as is now pretty typical for him, in good form here and he elevates some of the more mundane and well-worn aspects of the story. Though, to be fair, he is hardly alone in this as he is backed up by a really good cast, including Daniel Bruhl, Sienna Miller and Alicia Vikander, along with extended cameos by Uma Thurman and Emma Thompson. Indeed, a lot more from the latter, in particular, would have been especially welcome.

Frankly though, stellar though the cast may be, one has to wonder what they saw in the script (by the sporadically brilliant but inconsistent Steven Knight) in the first place. Not that it has a particularly bad screenplay or anything but, though it may well be perfectly enjoyable, there's nothing all that special about it either, as the story progresses pretty much exactly as you would expect it to and none of the characters, save for Cooper's Adam Jones, are much more than just solidly written.

What's probably most interesting about the film then is that, based on the production companies involved, it's clearly an indie film but it's one with a major a-list cast and a seriously Hollywood mainstream feel that's destined to do neither particularly brilliantly at the box office, nor make much headway in the upcoming awards season – even with the Weinsteins distributing it. It's pretty much the sort of film that Hollywood doesn't make all that often these days so even if it's ordinary in every other respect, it's a bit of an outlier on a purely industrial level.

All that said though, just because there's nothing remotely special or different about the film in and of itself, it's not that hard to recommend it as a perfectly enjoyable drama that will especially appeal to foodies. Sienna Miller and Bradley Cooper are not the knockout onscreen couple that Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are but their romantic/professional relationship makes for a very predictable but likable emotional centre of the proceedings, though it's unquestionably Cooper and Bruhl's somewhat more complicated relationship that is perhaps most interesting.

As for our hero's by-the-numbers road to redemption, well, it plays out exactly as you may expect (save for a cool, cruel twist in the middle there that I didn't see coming at all), but it's done well enough and even if he is a bit of a dick, it's hard not to root for him anyway.

Undoubtedly though, this is a film that will work best for those who can't get enough of the food channel as its most authentic and gripping sequences do actually involve the preparation of the various gourmet dishes. Now, I may well prefer a nice helping of steak, chips and veg over the exotic and oh so French food (and the portions are so small!) on display here but even I had my taste buds tickled by the film's culinary sequences and unashamed forays into pure food-porn.  

Being the product of director John Wells though, who has mainly been associated with some top-notch TV series including the West Wing, Shameless and ER, you can quite comfortably wait to see it on the small screen.

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