Saturday, November 7, 2015

Theatrical Review: Burnt

Date: Saturday November 7 2015
Time: 12pm
Location: Pocono Movieplex
Party: me, myself & I

Director: John Wells (directed "August: Osage County")
Writers: Steven Knight (screenplay) & Michael Kalesniko (story)

Adam Jones- Bradley Cooper

Helene- Sienna Miller
Tony- Daniel Bruhl
Michel- Omar Sy
David- Sam Keeley
Reece- Matthew Rhys
Dr. Rosshilde- Emma Thompson

Duration: 101 minutes (+ 2 trailers)


Previews and Opening Remarks

I'm just seeing now that this movie got bad reviews... and those people are freaking idiots.
Considering that they were behind the film adaptation of "The Giver," I can't say with complete confidence that the Weinstein Company can do no wrong. It seems like they only think they succeed in doing is getting Meryl Streep Oscar nominations...
But before I lose this tangent, I felt like this movie was really well done. Not quite at Oscar level, but certainly closer than most movies I've seen this year.

I went by myself (my mom and sister went to the Peanuts movie, which my sister had wanted to see for her birthday- which is today). I found it interesting that they asked for my ID. I forgot momentarily that this was rated R for language. Totally bogus, by the way. The f-bomb usage was nowhere near the Scorsese level and a few violent outbursts in the kitchen... I'm sorry, I just don't buy into it.
Not to mention I don't remember if I even got ID'd when I saw "Due Date," which had plenty more cause for an R-rating.

I walked in just as they were getting into "The Night Before"- that Christmas Eve movie with Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Considering it's Seth Rogen being his usual idiot self... yeah, it's going to be pretty stupid. They had a scene where he's in church and awkwardly finds his way out upon realizing he was wearing a sweater with the Star of David on it after seeing Jesus on the cross.
I also didn't realize that "Ride Along" got a sequel, but it actually looks pretty hilarious. Plus it has Ken Jeong in it. He's probably not going to be as crazy as his character from the "Hangover" franchise, but him being in the mix is sure to be interesting. Again, it looks like a stupid movie, but the trailer really did make it look good. All that's left is that I wonder if Kevin Hart thinks twice about going near ceiling fans after a stunt he pulled in this movie :P

Bradley Cooper, the cast and characters
This feels like my first review of a Bradley Cooper movie. But upon checking my records (tags REALLY come in handy with blogging), I'd done two of his movies in the past. Granted, one was a voiceover role ("Guardians of the Galaxy" and the other was the original freaking "Hangover" movie (at this point, can we all just pretend the sequels never happened?).
But this is the first time I'm discussing a movie where he's playing the starring role.

The first theater trip I took for one of his movies was "The Words"... which I feel got overshadowed BIG TIME by "Silver Linings Playbook." But I felt a camerarderie with "The Words" just as a writer struggling to get a manuscript published. At that time, I had sent a manuscript to a dozen agents in my genre and didn't get any good results. Few returned my emails and when they did, they were very vague. None telling me what I'm doing wrong or what I could do better.
As that movie was ending, though, I remember crying. I hated for it to end and it was also bittersweet how it all worked out.

I remember seeing Bradley Cooper, Matthew Quick (the author) and some cast members of "Silver Linings Playbook" [great book and movie] on Katie Couric talking about mental illness and such.. I started really respecting him after that.
He IS a good looking guy. I am quite aware of that, but I don't go to movies to see him because of that. I wanted to see "The Words" and I wanted to see "Burnt" because they just looked really well done. And with both, I was very happy with my choice to go.

First things first, Adam Jones (the character Coop is playing in this) is a very flawed protagonist, but when he's in his element, he is REALLY good at what he does. He was a great young chef who won 2 Michelin stars and he is on a quest for his 3rd. But when our movie begins, he'd just finished repenting for mistakes that ruined his life and that of other people. He got too much success too fast in his young life. He felt a void he needed to fill, so he overindulged in sex and drugs and made enemies.
Adam Jones made his way in Paris, but thanks to his former exploits, he decides to make his comeback and venture towards that last Michelin star in London.

I'd been wanting to see Daniel Bruhl since he played  Frederick Zoller in "Inglorious Basterds" and he was really good in this as well.
We first see his character, Tony, in charge of a restaurant that seems to be running smoothly, but he feels an impending doom upon getting the news that a notorious critic is dining there. And Adam just happens to show up so he may offer his services as head chef to make sure the restaurant isn't closed by a bad review. Despite how it may appear on the surface- Adam orchestrating the critic situation to punch his ticket back into the culinary world- he does this to give Tony a chance to be a maître d' at a successful restaurant that would make his father proud.
He rebuffs Adam at first, but they rekindle their old friendship in no time.

But given his checkered history, Tony and his father don't invest in Adam's restaurant for nothing. He still has to visit a doctor once a week to run blood tests- they'll support him as long as he sticks to his sobriety. Emma Thompson plays this doctor in a small, but very pleasant role. I've seen her several times and I almost feel like I'd taken her for granted until now.

At some point, I need to see "American Sniper." Not just because of the good reviews (from critics, friends and my dad), but because Sienna Miller was in it with Bradley Cooper.
In the early part of the movie where Adam is scouting his 7 samurai (i.e. the line cooks that'll be working for him... his words, not mine), he goes to several restaurants and food stands. He first meets Helene while she's at work. He was impressed with something she cooked and his dining partner (I believe it's Tony's father) brings him behind the scenes to meet her. There's also an interesting scene where he tries to woo her into working for him where they meet at a Burger King and he goes on a spiel asking why she doesn't like fast food.

Tony, of course, thinks it's a bad idea to enlist her because she's a woman. And with his history, it's likely to blossom into romance that breaks apart quickly, leading her to quit.
It does appear that they get together, but romance isn't the main focus of the movie. The scene where they kiss the first time is a little cliché and kinda lame. But it doesn't mean he isn't hard on her as much as his other chefs. Nor do this relationship get in the way of their working relationship.
Reece is the head chef/owner of the other big restaurant in London. The two of them have a checkered past together and naturally, Reece feels threatened by Adam as competition. Despite the fact Reece is like this movie's Marcel Vigernon (see "Top Chef" and any appearance he's had on Food Network... he's very into new modern culinary techniques, including immersion circulators... the only thing missing in his kitchen is liquid nitrogen), Adam eventually tops him and he doesn't take it well.
The fierce rivalry is a small part of the movie, but they didn't go as far with it as they could have. In a way, it's almost refreshing. Much like the fact Adam and Helene's romance doesn't take up too much screen time. It keeps the movie from falling into old hat traps of convention.

Ultimately, though, all the drama happens in the kitchens during dinner service and Adam dealing with his inner demons.

The Kitchen

In the opening credits, Mario Batali was listed as one of the on-set food experts and Gordon Ramsey is among the executive producers.
I saw a short video where Gordon Ramsey helps promote the movie, says what a good job Bradley Cooper did and how it was the portrayal he'd seen of cooks in a kitchen in film. According to their Food Network special, the actors cooked everything themselves and held themselves to high restaurant standards. That only impressed me and got me even more excited about seeing the movie.

And being in this kitchen felt like being in "Hell's Kitchen." It's a VERY fast paced work environment. There's a standard of perfection that is demanded. Even if there's a timing issue, all the food has to be perfectly done or it's not worth putting out. A number of times he tells his chefs not to talk back to him, but to just say "yes chef" and do as he says. It's absolutely crazy, I know, but in this light, I understand why things have to be a certain way. It keeps the operation running like a well-oiled machine. But it's up to the head chef to expedite and be on top of everything and everybody.

I read one review that said that everything beyond the kitchen scenes is boring... with the adrenaline, I can understand why that might be.
I knew for a fact that I would be fine for the entire movie because Bradley Cooper, even when he's not entirely pleasant to be around, has great stage, or rather, screen presence. I care about what's going to happen to him and to see him succeed because his character is so gifted at what he does.

Other Comments

Without giving anything away, the most interesting thing about this movie... it's the fact that you don't always know what to expect from the characters. Someone who is your friend can turn into an enemy and someone you figured would leave you out to dry comes through for you when you need it.

Of course we can't have a movie without some peaks and valleys. The kitchen runs smoothly most times, but there's always moments where things can go wrong, f bombs are dropped and things get broken.
It isn't giving too much away to say that Adam doesn't stay on the wagon the entire ride. Recovering addicts are prone to revisit old habits-- it's not just Hollywood cliché, it's a real-life struggle. And the way it played out, it was a little hard to watch, but it was written very well and acted well by Bradley Cooper. Like I said, he makes me care about his characters and I was more than happy about tear-jerking response I had to it.

The movie touched on in small detail about the Michelin process. How the people come to the restaurants, what they order, what they do. Things to look for so you know for sure that you're being watched and everything needs to be perfect.

There was no part where I felt like the pacing was slow and boredom never found me. In fact, I did a double-take when the credits rolled. Everything had resolved and it was a happy ending for everybody, but I kinda wanted to see more.
I had that same feeling about "The Intern" as well, but there were moments I felt like they tried a little too hard to get laughs.  "Burnt" is mostly drama, but when they were funny moments, they came naturally. There was also a cute moment where one of his line cooks, David, was explaining to his girlfriend how Michelin stars were comparable different Star Wars characters.
That was the one that stuck out to me, but there were some other moments integrated seamlessly into the script.

Final Word

Why this movie isn't getting rave reviews is beyond me...

The only negative I can derive, I guess, is the way the film is shot early on. It felt like being in "Black Swan" where the camera followed too closely, sometimes shook, and it was sometime before we even got a good look at our star. But once equilibrium was found, it stayed. Or I was enjoying myself too much to even notice.

Every year, there's always a movie I find out about a couple months before it premieres [mainly because it doesn't feature an actor I'm not personally keeping tabs on] and when I start seeing trailers, I know I will see that and that I will enjoy it. I thought this looked really well done and I wasn't disappointed by any means.

Can I say Bradley Cooper once more and still be convincing in saying that I'm into him for acting, not because he's one of the Sexiest Men Alive?
And when he won that honor, I wasn't quite believing it. Now I do. But it's more because he's a really nice guy and he's made really good dramatic movie choices.
Going into this, I just felt like I was sitting in a safety net and I knew everything was going to be okay. There has to be drama somewhere, but it was handed very well and I never lost faith in the acting or storytelling.

If you're a fan of these actors and/or cooking shows like "Hell's Kitchen", this is your movie.

I probably won't look at food the same way for a while ;) also, don't go to this movie hungry.
[They said that about "Chef' too and I STILL haven't seen it yet... get to work, HBO? Showtime? Sundance Channel?]

Grade: A
[I've given a lot of solid A's this year, but of my 9 movies so far this year, I think this is the best]

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