Oct 30

“Burnt”: If Nothing Else At Least This Film Has a Shrink

Directed by John Wells, the new film Burnt, which has Bradley Cooper as top chef Adam Jones, has been pretty “burnt” by the critics so far.

The plot: Adam, who’s destroyed his career with substance abuse and unacceptable behavior, tries to regain control of his work and life.

Some of Justin Chang‘s review in Variety seems particularly appropriate, if not complimentary, for this blog. He calls Burnt “a moody-foodie therapy session that follows an increasingly tidy narrative recipe as it sets this one-man kitchen nightmare on a long road to redemption.”

Adds Carole Mallory (Huffington Post), “Sobriety is a tough journey and not the one, two, three effort that Adam Jones travels in Burnt.”

And, Elise Nakhnikian, Slant: “…(T)he ‘real’ story is Adam’s psychological rehabilitation. As everything in this by-the-numbers script signals, our hero must transform himself from an abusive tyrant in the kitchen and a loner at home to the head of a loving and fully functional family, in both his professional and his personal lives. Can he do it? The suspense (or something) is killing me.”

Other big-name stars include Sienna Miller as his sous chef and potential love interest, Daniel Brühl as a maître d’ (who happens to be gay), Uma Thurman as a restaurant critic (“a brief but amusing appearance as a tough lesbian food critic,” says Rex Reed, New York Observer)—and Emma Thompson as Adam’s shrink.

As stated by Alonso Duralde, The Wrap, psychiatrist Dr. Rosshilde (Thompson) has to administer weekly drug tests to Adam, per his new restaurant investors, and is “just dying to get this brash young chef to open up to her about what’s really bugging him.”

But because most of the cast, according to Justin Chang (Variety), ultimately “are forced to serve a basically therapeutic purpose, trying to show Adam that his extreme perfectionism is destroying his capacity for functional human relationships…even the never-unwelcome Emma Thompson seem(s) pretty redundant in the role of an actual therapist.”

Scott Mendelson, Forbes: Thompson has fun as a would-be therapist to whom Adam must report to in order to reaffirm his continuing sobriety, although the film feels on the verge of revealing that she is his mother or some such notion.”

Oh, I so hope she’s not indeed related to her client in any way (à la the misguided 2005 Prime, in which Thurman ‘s shrink, played by Meryl Streephappens to be the mom of her boyfriend). (See previous post about the therapist’s weird handling of the boundaries.)

At least there’s this, from Glenn Kenny, rogerebert.com: “The movie goes up several notches in quality every time Emma Thompson, as a sagacious therapist, turns up.”