I like watching movies about food, cooking, and chefs because I find the experience of portraying food as luxurious, sexy, and ultimately universal always rewarding. It’s like being fed on many levels–physical, emotional, even spiritual. Of course, cinematic cooking is always a visual feast, from food preparation to plating and its consumption.
“Burnt” would have slipped through my radar if not for the recommendation of a friend, who herself is studying to be a chef in Singapore. When I saw that this movie’s lead is Bradley Cooper, I heaved another sigh of thanks. Why? Because Bradley Cooper is gorgeous! The perfect guy to photograph with perfect-looking food.
As it happened, however, “Burnt” is the only food-related movie I had seen where I didn’t pay much attention to the food. Make no mistake, the food being prepared everywhere in this movie looked delicious and perfectly presented. Unfortunately I was immediately seduced by extremely talented but flawed Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) and how this character played against the people around him like his friend Tony (the wonderful Daniel Bruhl), colleague/ rival Reece (Matthew Rhys), protegee David (Sam Keeley), and sous chef/ lover Helene (Sienna Miller).
I found myself relating to and identifying with him as the story unfolded on the screen. At the end of the movie, I had cried and laughed and cringed at the things that happened to him.
Hours later, as I was having coffee while waiting for my friends to show up, the story of Adam Jones was still in my mind. So much so that I proceeded to write things on my planner, in order to process perhaps, the feelings I was feeling that time. I realized the story resonated so much to me because it touched on themes that for the past years have weighed heavily on my post-clinical depression life here in Manila.
These interlocking and interconnected themes include Redemption, because Adam Jones’s back story was that he wasn’t able to handle success very well that he turned to vice (drugs), resulting in self-destructive behavior that affected all around him. He then ran away for a period then returned to reclaim his lost glory.
Another is Recovery, because getting back into the saddle is harder than falling off of it. The movie showed that each time one decides to change his life for the better, one has to completely say good-bye to his old life, often including the people you know in that old life. Adam Jones wasn’t really okay (even if appearances showed otherwise) until he sought the help of others, which was very difficult for him to do because doing this will stir up issues relating to the theme of Trust.
This is trust in many levels: trusting the self, trusting other people, and allowing one’s self to be trusted by others again. Trust is tightly linked to another theme, which is Friendship. Adam’s friendships are the gateways to the milestones he must reach on the way to being well. Because for one to truly move on, old debts must be repaid first. For a friendship to last, it requires a lot of work. Some friendships are borne out of a fierce rivalry (Reece), of hero-worship (David), or of animosity (Helene). And in the case of Tony, unrequited love is always returned–one way or another.
Everyone has been betrayed by a friend at one point, I realized. I don’t have the monopoly to horrendous friends.
If you’re still reading at this point, let me apologize because this movie review doesn’t sound like a movie review anymore.
The movie entertained me. Kudos to the deft direction of TV veteran John Wells (ER, The West Wing). But this is how the movie affected me. And it felt like something I could share to anybody who has hit rock bottom and who’s still trying to get right back up.
Catch “burnt” at the cinema and see if it exerts the same effect on you.