Burnt Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Daniel Brühl. Directed by John Wells. Rated R. Opens Friday.
Ten years ago, before he was an Oscar-nominated movie star, Bradley Cooper starred in the Fox comedy series Kitchen Confidential, playing a fictionalized version of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain as a once-self-destructive bad boy given a second chance to run his own restaurant. He plays a similar character in the culinary dramedy Burnt, only without much of the warmth and humor he brought to Kitchen Confidential. Cooper’s Adam Jones is such a handsome charmer, he’s the only man ever to sleep with a certain feared lesbian food critic, and of course he’s also such a brilliant chef that even his greatest rival concedes he’s the best there is. What could possibly go wrong for a guy this amazing?
Well, not a whole lot, which is what makes Burnt a rather flat drama that coasts on the star power of its cast (actors like Uma Thurman, Emma Thompson and breakout star Alicia Vikander waste their talents in meager roles). Adam is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict starting over as the executive chef of an upscale London restaurant, but the movie never conveys any kind of anguish over addiction or recovery. Instead it breezes through a predictable plot about a self-absorbed jerk becoming slightly less self-absorbed, all while romancing the one woman (Sienna Miller) who isn’t immediately smitten with him. Like Jon Favreau’s similarly themed Chef (this film’s original title), Burnt is filled with glossy images of gorgeously prepared food, but its characters and story are significantly less flavorful.