151031burntposter“American Sniper” stars Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller are together again, not as husband and wife, but as sometimes dueling chefs in the new film “Burnt.”

And for the second week in a row, one of Hollywood’s biggest new releases focuses on a protagonist who has allowed ambition to consume his life and finds redemption when he learns to prioritize his family instead.

Last week was “Steve Jobs”, a biopic about the famous Apple Computer CEO, and this week, “Burnt,” a fictional tale of a talented but flamed out chef on a determined comeback trail.

In both films, the raw audience appeal of the movie suffers because the protagonist is so ambitious, so much a jerk, he’s hard to root for. Yet in both, a second major failure leads at last to the shift in priorities that brings about redemption (in a story arc sense, not a spiritual one).

Both “American Sniper” and “Steve Jobs” are better movies, but especially for foodies like my wife and me, “Burnt” is nonetheless an entertaining and enjoyable film.

In “Burnt,” Chef Adam Jones (played by Cooper) had built a network of friends and near family in the Paris restaurant scene, but destroyed it all with drugs and loose living. After a period of self-induced exile and cleaning up his act, Jones returns to Europe to attempt to resurrect and exceed his former career.

But Jones’ pure ambition proves insufficient for the task ahead.

At a critical point in the movie, a member of his kitchen staff (played by Miller) confronts and comforts him, saying, “We cook together. We take care of each other. No one can do it alone. You have to trust us; we are your family.”

True, this isn’t “family” in the traditional or biblical definition, and that may give some audiences pause. So might the excessive strong language or some of the film’s homosexual themes (see content advisory below).

And no, “Burnt” is not a “family film” in the code that means “Christianized” or “clean.” But it is nonetheless the second major movie release in a row to praise the virtue of family and warn against the danger of sacrificing family on the altar of ambition.

Cooper’s star performance, a couple of plot twists and one particularly powerful scene also carry this film, which, while not exquisite, is still a tasty dish.

Content advisory:

  • “Burnt,” rated R, contains roughly 85 profanities and obscenities, most of which begin with “f,” which significantly detracts from some scenes and remains a distraction throughout. There were certainly scenes meant to be very powerful, but the emotion was shortchanged by the shortcut of using obscenity instead of better script writing.
  • The film contains some lewd dialogue, some comparisons between cooking and sex, a passionate kiss, some cleavage and a shirtless man, but no nudity or sex scenes. There is, however, a line where a woman asks herself, “I’m a lesbian; why did I sleep with Adam Jones?” There is also a homosexual character who pines, though subtly, after Adam Jones. There is also a kiss between two men, one of whom is homosexual, though it is played more for humor than any erotic content.
  • “Burnt” contains a couple of minor fight scenes and several instances of enraged chefs storming about and throwing things in the kitchen. A pair of henchmen also beat a character bloody, but this happens off screen, and only the wounds are actually seen.
  • The film has no occult references, and only a few, mixed references to faith. The movie opens with a line, “God have us oysters and apples – you can’t improve on recipes like that.” The film makes other casual references to God, prayer, “the four horsemen” and a closing song that sings about selling your soul for “a calling.”

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