Bradley Cooper is a CHEF. He’s had a TROUBLED PAST. He wants to prove that he’s the BEST. But he can’t do it ALONE. And I can tell all of this just from the poster. I laughed when I saw the poster at the cinema a few months ago. It seems like such a formulaic premise for a movie, something that movie execs cook up thinking that it can’t possibly fail because it has all the right ingredients. And it’s not a terrible movie, but it’s like dining at McDonald’s, you know exactly what you’re going to get when you walk in and no amount of artisan presentation will change the fact that it’s the same burger you’ve eaten many times before.
Bradley Cooper’s character Adam has had a tumultuous past of his own making. We see him get out of rehab and take menial culinary work shucking oysters seemingly as a personal challenge and punishment. Process completed and obviously completely recovered, he heads to London on a mission to gain the elusive three Michelin stars that will prove he is the best. He reconnects with people from his past who he has burnt and meets some new talent, including a female chef who we expect is there to teach him how to be a better person.
I don’t really need to tell you much more because the story line is fairly predictable, as per the poster. Cooper is handsome enough but not overly likeable in this role. I did not believe at all that he was the BEST CHEF EVER but I know he was, because another character says it. Online reviews say that the atmosphere and dynamics of professional kitchens is authentically portrayed but somehow it all seemed a bit stagey to me.
Perhaps this film has some things to say about masculinity. Adam as an archetype is a flawed hero who must atone for his mistakes and learn to embrace his vulnerability rather than try to conquer it. It’s a clumsy metaphor though and not well developed. Several of the secondary characters seemed to be there just to show Adam’s good points – his lack of homophobia, his ability to speak French, his friendliness to children. I’m not sure why the lot of them didn’t tell him to take a hike and just get on with their lives.
Bechdel test – pass (but not in any inspiring way)