Adding somewhat to the title I feel compelled to usher this to its fiery doom after it champions one of the most vile central characters I’ve ever seen onscreen. The film is the third feature from director John Wells, after ‘The Company Men’ (10) and ‘August: Osage County‘, and stars Bradley Cooper as Adam Jones, a chef of almost mythic abilities who is returning to London after having previously abused every drug and woman going and burnt as many bridges as he could in the process. Only thing is, he’s still a massive twat, as we see when something doesn’t go his way at work and he goes apeshit at all the people he’d just brown-nosed to get to work for him, including physically grabbing and shoving poor Sienna Miller, who plays equally gifted sous-chef Helene. During the entire scene Cooper successfully portrays an intimidating psychopathic bully but you can see what looks like pain in his eyes at one point, as if he’s on the verge of tears at having to play out the particularly nasty scene.
Jones tells his cohorts you have to be arrogant to be in his kitchen, and the whole film has that vibe of defending arrogance and trying to say that for some people it’s necessary, but it’s a massive cop-out and this is how people like Jones gain power – by preying on the weak. You have to stand up to them right from the offset and put them in their place, but even then you’re probably looking at having to do the same thing again and again and again so long as they hold to arrogance being in any way and at any time a good thing, which long term is just too exhausting to be worthwhile, and films like this encourage that completely as we see the inevitable female that he’s abusing eventually fall for him – purely as she failed to stand up to him and allowed herself to be intimidated and, literally, pushed around. If someone less scary had tried it she would never have stood for it, like everyone else in the kitchen at the time, but acquiescence becomes justified by people telling themselves ‘they can handle him’ or all manner of untruths as they go through the emotional and chemical changes that result from moments of fear turning to moments of relaxation, as the danger passes and the bully becomes friendly or even complimentary again.
In reality though, it becomes an abusive relationship with the imprint of fear and dominance ever present and in the long run nothing good ever comes from that. Jones is chasing a third Michelin star, and this is supposed to be some sort of heroic quest that is on a par with life-and-death situations, when really it’s all about his ego and nothing more as all his vices are indeed glorified and the screenplay, quite accidentally, shows us that when things go wrong he behaves like a massive coward. There are hints of redemption, and similar ones of comeuppance, but the film reeks of poor writing throughout. Terrible movie, with reasonable acting from the likes of Miller in support but one that also remarkably manages to make even the food seem distant and alien, with too many fast-cut shots that were presumably meant to mirror life in a busy kitchen but would have been better taking cues from ‘The Hundred-Foot Journey‘ (although, bizarrely, Steven Knight wrote the screenplay for both films).