Monday, April 06, 2009

The Burning Plain

Guillermo Arriaga’s debut as a director perhaps has too many weakness to be a great movie, but there is one thing that is always strong, the screenplay that he also wrote and if you are not familiar with Arriaga’s outstanding career as a screemplay writer just think about great movies like Amores Perros, 21 Grams, and Babel.

The story is a family drama told in a non-linear narrative where events are revealed out of sequence and for a long while you will be guessing what the two (or three?) stories have in common and I bet you that whatever you think will not be what it was. Obviously there’s a moment when you realize how the stories are connected and the outcome becomes totally predictable, but then is at almost the end of the movie.

Basically the story is about some women played by great Charlize Theron (Sylvia), very good Kim Basinger (Gina) and surprisingly good Jennifer Lawrence (Mariana) and I believe that the story is about guilt; guilt for having affairs, guilt for all left behind and guilt for what you dare to do.

It’s an entertaining story –and movie- even when definitively I find it not moving or emotional and I believe is due to Arriaga’s weaknesses as a director that got lost in the non-linear narrative and didn’t paid much attention to generate emotions; but also to the time the viewer has to invest in figuring what’s happening and getting lost in the mental exercise does not allow to emotionally involve with the story.

Tech specs are normal and definitively the great female cast delivers dramatically, even when there are some scenes that are not credible but I think is more because of the director than the actresses performance.

The movie was premiered at the 2008 Venice fest were it was in competition for a Golden Lion and where Jennifer Lawrence won the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actress.

The film could be suited for general adult audiences that enjoy family dramas and if you don’t enjoy non-linear narratives I still suggest you give it a try as probably the story will easily engage you if you’re a little patient.

I enjoyed the movie as an entertaining drama and as such I do recommend it, but I was hoping for a better production from Guillermo Arriaga’s directorial debut.


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