By Jack Rico
‘The Burning Plain’ is a bleak film which is heavy on the visceral drama and light on substance. The script isn’t compelling nor are the characters and last I heard, the idea behind creating a movie is to entertain audiences to some degree, not make one miserable and despondent.
Three stories about three women swing back and forth in time and place, gathering apparently disconnected and twisted scenes into a monotonous tale of betrayal, love, and death. The film stars Charlize Theron, Kim Basinger and a new crop of actors.
Mexican screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga, now turned director, is a magnificent penman who creates scenes that bring the best out of actors and his director. Regrettably, as his fourth work shows, he has reached a repetitive, one-dimensional plateau where he can’t seem to free himself from. Once again, Arriaga tells a story of various characters paralleling each other. He began with this structure in ‘Amores Perros’ and continued in ‘21 Grams,’ ‘Babel’ and now ‘The Burning Plain’. When I spoke to him, Arriaga contested that he felt the composition and story of this film are completely different than anything he has done before. He needs to take a closer look at his films and pick up on the recurring patterns – multi-narratives and gut-wrenching, emotional dramas. There isn’t anything wrong with Arriaga continuing along this trademark path, but isn’t variety the spice of life? Versatility is where you prove yourself to be better than just one style and I am hoping to see something distinct and fresh for his next project.
This is a Hollywood indie intertwined with a Latino story. For Hispanics, the decision to watch this heavy film for the sake of supporting a fellow patriot is ignorant. You make your decision based on the quality of the script and the acting. In this case, the script is banal, too serious and melodramatic and the acting, though arguably strong, is not compelling and lacks believability. I recommend you wait for his arch nemesis, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s new film ‘Biutiful’ starring Javier Bardem for a more enjoyable experience at the movies in December.
Rated: R for sexuality, nudity and language
Release Date: September 18, 2009
Screenplay: Guillermo Arriaga
Director(s): Guillermo Arriaga
Starring: Charlize Theron, Jennifer Lawrence, Kim Basinger