After the Campaign

After the Campaign: Burnt

When Burnt was being sold to the public about a year ago the campaign felt a bit strained, like it was working really hard to convince us that it was some edgy and engaging drama. The story follows Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper), a superstar chef who fell from grace years ago but has returned to London to try and reclaim his reputation. His ego and the repercussions of his past actions continue to haunt him, though, and cause problems as he assembles a kitchen full of past collaborators and up-and-coming chefs while constantly being pulled in the direction of his lesser angels.

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The movie isn’t great, but it felt better than the 29% rating it has on Rotten Tomatoes. Cooper is his usual charming self, though sometimes his character can come of somewhat one-note as he bullies and yells his way through scene after scene. The campaign set Jones up as a “bad boy” in the world of chefs and it’s as if the script needed to not only reexplain that but underline it repeatedly whenever he’s on screen. And everyone around him is designed to put into relief some different aspect of his obsessive and abusive personality, be they old collaborators or new apprentices he’s working with. Those secondary characters, then, become kind of cutouts that are in service to Jones.

There are of course twists, particularly a big one at the end, that weren’t spoiled or even hinted at in the marketing. That’s to be expected. What was surprising was that the campaign tried very hard on a few different occasions to try and redeem Jones’ character as still having a heart under his gruff exterior. The movie as a whole makes a few nods in that direction but not very consistently or whole-heartedly. It’s too invested in keeping him as that bad boy in order to make the twist that comes toward the end and Jones’ ultimate decision about reaching his goal that much more engaging or contrasting with how things turn out.

I can’t say the conclusion is ultimately satisfying, but most of the journey there is enjoyable enough. The campaign that sold it didn’t offer anything outright misleading that lead the audience in the wrong direction.

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