In theory, this film should have been great, but in the hands of director John Wells and writer Steven Knight, what we were left with was the equivalent of a stale, insert-your-favourite-mass-market-store-brand bread. What a waste of the bevy of talented stars attached to it (and I am not including Bradley Cooper in this mix).
Essentially, this should have been marketed more like a romantic-comedy, and then perhaps it would have made more sense. If you are looking for food-porn or have a better understanding of how chefs work/think, then may I humbly suggest Netflix's superior Chef's Table. Or even Bryan Fuller's Hannibal!
Why did Emma Thompson even agreed to be in this film? Uma Thurman was barely up for less than 10 minutes. Talented European actors like Daniel Bruhl, Omar Sy and Matthew Rhys end up playing second fiddle to (American) Cooper who brings nothing to this role other than his usual persona. And poor Alicia Vikandar - this year's more ubiquitous actor - does not even get a mention on the poster.
The story itself, by Michael Kalesniko, has so much potential, but the way Wells chose to handle it was disappointing. Everything about the directing and writing was introductory class 101. Nothing was done to establish Cooper's character and his brash arrogance was purely unearned. Which leads to a highly misleading movie tagline: how is it that he has everything to lose?
All that led to a predictable storyline. The romance. The twist. The faux-twist. The happy ending.
Cooper is a way over-rated actor. Just like in American Sniper, he was one-tone in this film. Shouting and being rude does not an intimidating and excellent chef maketh. There was no passion in his cooking or his reverence towards food. Joseph Gordon-Levitt learnt to walk a tight rope for The Walk; did Cooper even learn to cook or use a sous-vide machine?
Sienna Miller is the love interest. Did I spoil it for you? At least I could believe that she was a struggling single mum, but the chemistry between Cooper and her was barely palpable. And at least she was not cut from the movie unlike in Black Mass.
Poor Bruhl was left to be the unwitting comedic side-kick but at least his character was fun; Sy should have been given more to make his scenes work; Rhys nailed his last scene way better than any of Cooper's.
Again, why did Emma Thompson agree to be in this?
Sure, there was some good philosophy about food but most everything else was pedestrian and flat. To use a common food analogy, the souffle did not rise.