Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Burnt: Why the Dislike?

     We’ve wanted to see Burnt since the ads started appearing about six weeks ago.  Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller generate electricity together and it’s because they share an ease together after American Sniper, rather than a cozy familiarity.  The story centers on a chef whose hard work and ambition turned to arrogance before he flamed out in a combination of drugs, alcohol, and a failed romantic relationship.  The movie starts with that character ending his penance by shucking his millionth oyster and deciding to travel to London, start a restaurant, and earn a third Michelin star.  

Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller
     It’s easier to get that restaurant off the ground in a glamorously established space when that chef has a lot of contacts, of which many have complicated histories with him.  There are some wonderful European actors cast as those earlier friends and loves (some turned enemies) including Daniel Brühl, Omar Sy, Riccardo Scamarcio, Alicia Vikander, and Matthew Rhys.  
Daniel Brühl
It makes a great point for bilingualism and multilingualism as a means to a career and circle of colleagues and friends.  I could have done without the character sniffing another character’s clothes as shorthand for unrequited love.  It seems borrowed from Brokeback Mountain.  I thought that Emma Thompson’s therapist character must have been extremely successful since she lived in a beautiful house in central London with an enormous courtyard garden.  Uma Thurman provides a hoot of a cameo as an important London food critic.  

     Steven Knight has written some gritty London-set screenplays in the past and this is no exception, which seems to have been a major sticking point.  Critics have harped on the unpleasant main character and I think audiences may have been looking for a slick romantic comedy, which this is not.  Cooper possesses the charisma to attract an audience even while playing an asshole, albeit a brilliant one trying to overcome his nature.  He doesn’t turn sentimental or cute, which is gutsy.  The earlier incarnation of his character could have been the one he played on TV’s Kitchen Confidential (2005), which I liked, but no one else watched.  

The Dish That Won the Michelin Third Star
     As Neil said in regards to Burnt, it’s all about the food; it’s also about the esprit de corps that can exist in a work environment among people dealing with stress.  It ends on a realistic note, but not the feel-good one that Jon Favreau’s Chef did last year and that may have also gone against it.  

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