John Wells's Burnt is the first mainstream picture to attempt to serve up the full bacchanalian behind-the-scenes restaurant experience teased in Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential. The result is an overflowing, oddly seasoned plate. Bradley Cooper plays Adam Jones, formerly a star chef at a hugely successful Paris restaurant. Drink, drugs, and other crazy stuff got the better of him, and he dropped out and got clean. But even if his liver is a shambles, his ego is fully intact. He launches a plan to restart his career in London, persuading an old associate, Tony Balerdi (Daniel Brühl), to take a chance on partnering with him. Tony reluctantly agrees, and Jones proceeds to be his obsessed, perfectionist self, throwing tantrums in the kitchen every five minutes.
You might need all that noise to keep you awake. Wells and screenwriters Steven Knight and Michael Kalesniko pack as much stuffing as possible into this rubbery squid of a film, and the movie gets duller and less focused as it wears on. Jones has a sous-chef love interest (Sienna Miller) and a sultry ex (Alicia Vikander). Uma Thurman shows up as a tough-ass critic: When she takes a bite of the meal Jones has prepared for her, the cartoonish glow of ecstasy that crosses her face wouldn't be out of place in a lo-cal-pudding commercial aimed at beleaguered housewives. Have I mentioned that Tony also happens to be in love with Jones?
What figurative sauce, seasoning, condiment, or rare truffle oil doesn't find its way in? Overcharred on the outside and soggy in the middle, Burnt just can't get it right. Back to the kitchen with it.