Tag Archives: cooking

Burnt (2015)

burnt

I wasn’t all that interested in seeing Burnt, a film about a good-looking but emotionally damaged chef played by Bradley Cooper. And as it turns out, I probably should have stayed away, because I sure got burnt by it.

At least it starts off well. We find out that Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper), a former hotshot chef in Paris, is returning from some kind of self-imposed exile and is ready to take over the London culinary scene by storm. And he has a clear goal in mind: his third Michelin star.

The big names flash up during the opening credits: Sienna Miller, Daniel Bruhl, Alicia Vikander, Uma Thurman, Emma Thompson. It was looking really promising, and I foolishly got my hopes up.

Burnt does have some positives. The stars do deliver in terms of performances, with Cooper and Miller in particular exhibiting enough thespian skills to make us believe that they are top-class chefs (that said, Bruhl, who I loved in Drive, was quite hard to understand because of his fast-talking/accent). The dramatic kitchen scenes can be intense, and people who like watching those cooking shows with screaming head chefs will appreciate all the swearing and humiliation. And of course there’s the food porn. There wasn’t an overemphasis on the culinary delights, but they sure did look very delicate and delicious. That said, I don’t think director John Wells (August: Osage County) did enough to sell the food — other food-themed films like The Hundred-Foot Journey and Chef did a better job of making me salivate.

The fundamental problem with Burnt is that Cooper’s character, Adam Jones, is a dickhead. And not just a little one. A massively conceited, bitter, douchey, self-important, vile, and unrepentant dickhead who doesn’t deserve our sympathy or empathy. I get that they’re trying to make him unappealing so that he can be redeemed — that’s blatantly obvious from the start — but his antics just build up so much animosity that it makes it impossible to care or root for the character. By the time he’s ready to be likable it’s already far too late.

Jones isn’t the only one, either. In fact, it’s hard to find one character you can truly root for in the movie. Some of them are okay, I suppose, but no one who can really make you care enough to develop a genuine emotional connection to the story. Maybe you need to have worked in that type of high-stress environment to understand how these people think and function, but I grew frustrated from not giving a darn about their personal predicaments.

I got the feel when watching this film that it was trying to be a hard-hitting, edgy, compelling drama, though when you strip away all the big names, yelling and the cooking it’s really just a cliched redemption story. I can’t go into specifics without revealing spoilers, but it’s not hard to guess how certain plot points are played out.

On the whole, Burnt was a disappointment. To sum up the experience with food puns (naturally) — despite the pretty presentation and fancy names, Burnt was an overcooked effort with too much bitterness, ultimately leaving a bad taste in my mouth. Boom.

2 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Julie & Julia (2009)

When I first saw the poster for Julie & Julia, I literally went ‘meh’.  A drama with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams as the two leads?  I enjoyed Doubt (which they starred in together in 2008) but this so didn’t look like my type of movie.

However, I later found out that the film was about food.  And that it was based on not one, but two intertwining true stories.  And most of all, the book upon which the film was based arose out of a blog!  That was when the aspiring writer inside convinced me I had to watch it.

I don’t like to spoil the plot, but in this case it helps to provide a bit of background.  Julia Child (Meryl Streep) is a famous American chef and author (pardon my ignorance), and Julie Powell (Amy Adams) is an average woman who attempts to cook every recipe in her cookbook in a year while chronicling her experiences in a blog.  The movie somehow manages to switch seamlessly between the two women – Julia in the 1950s as she learns to cook and piece together her cookbook, and Julie in 2002 she develops her blog project into a web sensation.

So how was it?

Written and directed by Nora Ephron (who last worked on Bewitched in 2005, but also did Sleepless in Seattle), Julie & Julia is very much a relationship drama that seeks to appeal to a predominantly female audience.  The main male characters, Julie and Julia’s husbands (played by Chris Messina and Stanley Tucci, respectively), are portrayed as virtual saints who are completely devoted to their wives.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it made me wish there was more tension in their lives than just burnt stews in the oven.

To be frank, it still wasn’t my type of movie.  The stories of the two women were somewhat interesting.  The food appeared to be absolutely divine.  The performances were superb (as you would expect from Streep and Adams).  Some bits were quite humorous.  And yet, it didn’t do a whole lot for me.  It’s not that it was bland.  It’s just that I wasn’t as absorbed as I thought I would be.  Maybe it’s just me.

On the other hand, the inspiring climb to success of both women was pretty cool.  There’s just something about watching other writers ‘make it’ that gets me all excited.

So to sum it all up, a good movie, but not really for me.

3 stars out of 5!