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Burnt shows why we need mid-range movies



Matt Damon recently said that mid range movies aren’t being made anymore, which is probably true and breaks my heart.

Mid-budget movies are unlikely to quadruple their money, which is the crazy measuring stick used by Studios to indicate success, and there weren’t millions queuing up to watch Burnt when it was released in 2015. 

It doesn’t help that Burnt received an average review of 30% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is distinctly below mid-range.

Why would anyone watch a movie with such a low approval rating from those people tasked with influencing viewers?

Because Burnt is a well-made parable and it’s enjoyable, that’s why.

Given Damon’s take on the industry, it’s a surprise that Burnt was made at all. Damon said that Studios just won’t green light mid-range movies for fear that there aren’t large enough audiences. And they’re probably right, except, in this new capitalist movie state, studios have forgotten that it’s not just about numbers: there is an audience, it’s just not of world-changing size.

I adore this type of film. Character-driven story arcs which focus on a pocket of time peppered with sharp dialogue. These movies should be cherished instead of relegated to the accidental staple of the jaded Netflix-flicker.

Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t revel in the mediocre, but Burnt is far from average.

Made on a budget of $20million it still manages to include an impressive cast. I gave it a punt because I wanted to hate-watch Bradley Cooper playing Marco Pierre White, but I stayed for everyone else. For snippets of Emma Thompson, Matthew Rhys and Alicia Vikander. Especially for Daniel Bruhl and Sienna Miller. Miller has had to suffer the slings and arrows of personal attacks and the mass media has forgotten that not only is she here to act, but that she’s good at it.

Burnt is about chef Adam Jones (Cooper) whose large ego and talent have been dwarfed by anxiety and managed by drugs. He is on the first steps of the path to rehabilitation through a continued love of the work. Cooper comes across old friends and foes, some even willing to give him a second chance, as the story of how he was brought so low is explored through the medium of the competitive London restaurant scene.

Cooper plays the whole thing as if the Academy are watching and that is to be commended. The rise and fall of the plot is full of unexpected touches (hello Uma Thurman), quick cuts and wry laughs. The score by Robert Simonsen is also noteworthy, it serves as a series of building pieces that took my attention only when necessary before fading back.

I have enjoyed director John Wells‘ back catalogue of the last few years (Love & Mercy, August:Osage County) and there’s more good work here. He doesn’t lay the message on too thickly. Yes Adam grows, gaining contentment through the pursuit of shared goals, but Wells never patronises the audience.

For demonstrating the simple pleasures to be found in mid-range movies, Burnt deserves more than 30%, it deserves a Michelin star.

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