'Burnt' Movie Review: Why One of Bradley Cooper's Best Performances Isn't Enough

The Oscar nominee delivers some of his best work in the new film.

Rated R

Two-and-a-half out of five stars

We have become a foodie nation -- or, at the very least, a nation with a coterie of people who have become obsessed with TV shows about molecular gastronomy, irate chefs yelling at people, and daytime talk shows that feature celebrity chefs who teach the masses how to make restaurant-quality food at home. We also love our great-looking movie stars, and an outstanding comeback story.

Which brings us to "Burnt." Bradley Cooper stars as Adam Jones, a two-star Michelin-rated chef who fell into a life of drugs and debauchery, ruining his career and several lives in the process. We never see that part in the movie; we’re just told about it. For instance, we find Adam shucking oysters in Louisiana – penance, he tells us, for screwing up so badly. He’s keeping track, by the way, in a book. When he shucks a million oysters -- that’s right, a million -- he quits his job and heads to London, where he shows up at his former friend Tony’s (Daniel Brühl) restaurant and announces he’s taking over.

Tony doesn’t play along, but Adam has a comeback plan: earn his third Michelin star. In the process, he’s going to ask for help from all of his old friends, several of whom he severely screwed with his outlandish behavior. But there’s a new person in the mix, and that’s Helene (Sienna Miller), a talented saucier and single mom who’s going to challenge Adam and help him adapt to a culinary world that’s changed significantly since he fell off the grid.

The good news is, "Burnt" features some of Bradley Cooper’s best work. The bad news is, the role he plays is poorly developed, written as an unbelievable, unsympathetic caricature with very little soul. Cooper’s performance helps lift the character but as is often the case with a mediocre script and story, it’s not clear what exactly this movie wants to be. You’ll enjoy the great-looking movie star. The comeback story? Not so much.