Chef Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) had it all - and lost it. A two-star Michelin rockstar with the bad habits to match, the former enfant terrible of the Paris restaurant scene did everything different every time out, and only ever cared about the thrill of creating explosions of taste. To land his own kitchen and that third elusive Michelin star though, he'll need the best of the best on his side, including the beautiful Helene (Sienna Miller).
Review by Louise Keller:
Demons and beautiful cuisine are on the menu in this edgy film in which Bradley Cooper yet again puts every foot right. As Adam Jones, a two-star Michelin Guide chef in search of his third star, Cooper is talented, creative, charming, arrogant, unforgiving, difficult, demanding, manipulative and impatient as he searches for perfection. The film a bit like good adventurous cuisine: the combination of unexpected flavours and textures result in an explosion of sensory experiences.
From a story by Michael Kalesniko, screenwriter Steven Knight's (Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises) well-constructed screenplay offers Cooper a complex character in which the stars in his eyes, the fire in his belly and a past that keeps regurgitating, delivers a multi-faceted film that plays out like a discordant degustation. Chaos in the kitchen is juxtaposed with stunning imagery of mouth-watering gourmet dishes, while life in and beyond the restaurant's front of house is equally tumultuous. The kitchen scenes are realistic and especially well done.
In the opening scenes we are given a brief snapshot of Jones, L'Enfant Terrible of the Paris restaurant world, whose spiraling self-destruction and fall from grace has prompted him to give up all his vices: booze, drugs, women. His self-imposed penance to shuck one million oysters is over and now he is ready to take the London restaurant scene by storm - using and pushing the people he knows with disregard.
Jones has no scruples, using every trick in the book and every person he knows to get what he is after. Cooper's charm and charisma ensures that we like him - faults and all. His ability to speak fluent French is a vital part of the narrative. I like the fact that all the characters are complex. In fact, director John Wells ensures that through good casting, we are assured of actors able to portray the multi-layers required. Daniel Bruhl as the hotel owner's son where Jones dons his chef's apron; Omar Sy as the sous-chef Jones wronged years ago; Riccardo Scamarcio as the chef whose temper lands him in jail; Richard Rankin as a volatile chef with a Mozart Salieri complex; Uma Thurman as a food critic who rates her past indiscretion with Jones as one of her regrets; Alicia Wikander as a past flame that is still flickering. Jones has a relationship with them all and uses them callously - for the most part.
And then there is Sienna Miller as Helene, the talented saucier and single mother, who struggles to juggle her obligations. Look out for the charming scene in which Jones makes a pretty pink birthday cake for Helene's young daughter. Miller has a lovely screen presence and the chemistry that develops between Helene and Jones feels organic as it blossoms. Emma Thompson plays an eccentric psychotherapist with bad fashion sense; her area of interest is the imperfection of others. There is drama in and out of the kitchen with a past drug money debt and the ever-constant watch for the revered Michelin Guide film critics, in whose hands reputations lie and die.
It's about ego, denial, paying old debts and discovering that there is something to the adage that many hands make light work. If you like films about food and the melting pot where creativity begins, you will enjoy this lively and engaging film that is the platform for Cooper's terrific performance.
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(aka The Chef)
CAST: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Omar Sy, Lily James, Alicia Vikander, Uma Thurman, Emma Thompson, Daniel BrŸhl, Matthew Rhys
PRODUCER: Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher, Erwin Stoff
DIRECTOR: John Wells
SCRIPT: Steven Knight (story by Michael Kalesniko)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Adriano Goldman
EDITOR: Nick Moore
MUSIC: Rob Simonsen
PRODUCTION DESIGN: David Gropman
RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 22, 2015