He’s a bad-boy fuckup. So of course he’s the hero. Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper: American Sniper) destroyed his culinary career in Paris — he’d earned two Michelin stars — a couple of years ago, but now he washes up in London, determined to earn his third star. How did he destroy his career? He’s an addict — addicted to everything: booze, drugs, sex — but that’s not his problem. His problem is that he is a raging asshole. But it’s okay! He may embody the notorious yet vaunted “ideal” of a chef as an “arrogant prick,” but he’s brilliant. A “genius.” Everyone says so. Even his worst enemy (Matthew Rhys: Beau Brummell: This Charming Man). And absolutely everyone else in the world is in love with him. Literally. His old friend, now maître d’ at at new London establishment, poor lovestruck sap Tony (Daniel Brühl: Woman in Gold). Adam isn’t gay, but restaurant critic Simone (Uma Thurman: Movie 43) is, and just about the entirety of her very limited dialogue here is her lamenting — though with a wistful, girlish sigh — how she “regrets” (not really) sleeping with him. (There is absolutely no purpose to this tangent at all beyond demonstrating how supposedly irresistible Adam supposedly is. We still never understand it.) And even, eventually, his new saucier, Helene (Sienna Miller: Mississippi Grind).
Poor Helene gets the most appalling treatment at the hands of screenwriter Stephen Knight (Seventh Son) and director John Wells: whatever culinary ambitions she might have are never even broached. She exists solely to make Adam’s dreams come true, and she’s even totally fine with how he abusively manipulates her into accepting a job in his kitchen. She is a single mother juggling her small daughter and her career, but it’s Adam’s life that is so very challenging. (Someone actually excuses his behavior with “he had a difficult childhood.” Adam, if we’re to assume that he’s the same age as Cooper, is 41 years old, long past the time when his childhood can legitimately accept any blame for his conduct.) It’s only after Adam’s obnoxiousness and arrogance has been celebrated as understandable and even necessary in this line of work and not really that big a deal at all that we are invited to recognize as a triumph that this temperamental manchild — who had made the lives of all around him a living hell — finally learns to impersonate a decent human being by the end of the film. How wonderful for him!