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cinemajesty30 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
In the aftermath of "The Hours" (2002), how women experience time, "The Burning Plain" (2008) directed by original writer and first-time director Guillermo Arriaga breaks under the weight of a director's responsibility. Giving the full independent package of a 20 Million U.S. Dollar production budget by producers Laurie MacDonald and Walter F. Parkes and professional cast going out from Charlize Theron, Kim Basinger over Joaquim de Almeida to an early motion picture participation of Jennifer Lawrence to create a story of a struggling woman's life through the ages from 18 to 50 years.

Director Guillermo Arriaga, unable to create any suspense in any given scene of full frontal character conflicts; Actress Charlize Theron strives through the scenes uninspired to sedated, just dwelling from early hard knock life experiences, at no moment challenged by the director to break through with her character of Sylvia to step on uncharted territory of psychological terror after a girl's life changing mother-murdering incident.

The well-written screen-story gets hardly translated to screen, lingering in too slow, if not to say insufficient shot pacing, wasting Robert Elswit's talents as Cinematographer. Director Guillermo Arriaga, seemingly uncomfortable in the director's chair, focuses on scenes on female self-mutilation and further draining from his characters' obsessions and sex addictions. The visuals, embedded in an U.S. Mexican Border Town and cold steel urban area cliché, misses surprises to release the spectator's running low interest in the female fates.

Positively to mention is the on-screen chemistry of Kim Basinger & Joaquim de Almeida, who left on their own to create a heart-breaking, doomed to fail love story. Actress Jennifer Lawrence, in her Pre- "Winter Bone" (2010) days, seems to be overwhelmed, undirected by Guillermo Arriaga and close to lost by her on-screen actions in the character of Mariana of murdering mother and her lover in a trailer gas explosion.

When the incident scene happens at running time marker 01h21mins00sec (PAL version), Director Guillerma Arriaga missed out to build an accelerating sequence with Editor Craig Wood to make an emotional impact for an arresting conclusion of woman's life wasted. Probably solution might have been to rearrange the editorial's structure entirely with taking the incident into the film's opening, which would have brought Jennifer Lawrence arguably a breakthrough performance under improved directions to carry an entire picture of her shoulders at an minor age; A fact that needed to mature another two years until her breakthrough at Sundance Film Festival 2010 with her leading role in "Winter's Bone".

In conclusion, "The Burning Plain" had the ingredients to be a solid psychological drama. But through lack of thriller elements, with a cast put into breathtaking tension mode and accelerated action beats, lets the film vanish into mediocrity.
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time jumbo
SnoopyStyle18 September 2016
The movie is told in a non-linear time jumbo. Sylvia (Charlize Theron) runs a high class restaurant with friend Laura (Robin Tunney). She is emotionally damaged and has non-committal sex with strangers. Her boyfriend John (John Corbett) is furious. She gets a ride from Carlos. Carlos has been looking for her but he doesn't speak English. He has brought her abandoned daughter Maria. In a desert New Mexico town, Gina (Kim Basinger) is having an affair with Nick Martinez (Joaquim de Almeida). Her daughter Mariana (Jennifer Lawrence) finds out and their love-nest trailer explodes in flames killing both. Mariana and Nick's son Carlos (José María Yazpik) begin a relationship.

The time jumbo doesn't help the lack of tension. Sylvia's nihilist existence has some intrigue but the jumping around highlights the search for connections between the different periods more than advance the character study. There is a mystery twist but that requires Theron and Lawrence to be the same. It's not a failure but it is a stretch. I doubt she got plastic surgery. The story may be more compelling told in a straight forward timeline.
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Morbid to a fault
lor_30 August 2016
In cinema there are two genres that emphasize the morbid: pornography and horror films. Body parts are the chief subject matter and content of both, though it is only in recent decades that horror has moved from psychological to its current gross-out and shock status.

Writer turned director Guillermo Arriaga takes the morbid route for a dramatic film "The Burning Plain", and merely displays a complete lack of feeling for cinema. Each scene is presented in the dull "one thing after another" representation of life that master directors like Hitchcock abhorred. Of course a great stylist like Ozu or Angelopoulos can get away with this approach, but Arriaga makes the experience dull indeed with his lack of technique.

Lack of suspense is the other damning fault of the film. Hitchcock often stressed the need to impart enough information as a storyteller in order that the viewer could share in the anticipation and enjoyment of key revelations to come, whereas novice Arriaga falls into the rookie trap of surprise. This is akin to bad horror films, where even if there are suspenseful scenes of dread and fear, the payoff or climax of a sequence is relegated to gimmick - the equivalent of sneaking up and shouting "boo" at the viewer like clockwork every few reels. Modern audiences equate that scare tactic to the horror film being a good one. Here, we finally, tortuously, get the contrived threads of the director's inside-out plot tied up ever so neatly -meant as a thrill for the mind, but a massive groaner for me. Better leave things enigmatic, but this is a man who has sold his soul to the Chaos Theory school of bad filmmaking.

Parting shot: another Adult Cinema gimmick is talking the actresses into doing this or that sex act (anal, interracial and gang-bang currently being the marketable commodities), to ensure the box office success of the product. For Arriaga, we have the modern phony-baloney equivalent of preying on actresses who have fallen for that whole indie myth of "giving one's all just for art". So the superstar sex symbol icons like Kim Basinger and Charlize Theron, with young Jennifer Lawrence warming up in the bullpen to surpass them in future career, are cajoled into "naughty" bits they would balk at in a big-budget studio assignment, probably feeling insulted. But for this crappy project - give it your all, scars being the fetish of the day.
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"The Burning Plain" is a fine film.
Dale Haufrect5 June 2015
"The Burning Plain" is an excellent film from 2008. It is currently available on NetFlix Instant Download Streaming. The director is Guillermo Arriaga, and the screenwriter is him as well. It is a complex film that reaches back in time with several stories simultaneously. Cause harm repeatedly to most parts of the body and they eventually grow desensitized, calloused and indifferent to the pain over time. This dispassionate, earthy and very dry aesthetic that film-maker Guillermo Arriaga applies to the world of his first major directorial outing is king; between the barren desert landscapes that permeate within the backdrops of his strangely distant and out-of-sync characters and the sparse narrative that intertwines it all together, The Burning Plain views life as a series of scars—cold and unrepresentative of the pain that brought them to the surface, but a firm reminder as such that nothing ever quite goes away, no matter how far you run. For the characters of Arriaga's story, a central catastrophe of sorts serves as the unfortunate catalyst that will bring them all together whether they like it or not. A burning trailer, housing two lovers sharing a passionate affair behind their families back, exploding in a rage of flames seemingly caused by accident. For them, the movie opens with their death thus absolving them from living with their irrevocable actions, but for those they leave behind the past stays as a constant and dictates largely how each of their futures will develop. I gave this movie 0 stars. Dale Haufrect
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Quietly devastating film
Guillermo Arriaga's The Burning Plain. Desolate. Heartbreaking. Gorgeously shot. Arriaga is the writer of 21 Grams, Babel and Amorros Perros. Here he gets the chance to direct his own project, and his creative vision sparks in a tale of several women separated by time and distance, but connected by romantic tragedy. The story shows in sweeping, searing strokes how the decisions of one generation and the resulting consequences can bleed out into the next generation, and the next, forging a heart wrenching chain of events that are often difficult to undo, or reconcile with. Kim Basinger and Charlize Theron are remarkable in the two central roles. Jennifer Lawrence displays an igniting spark of the fiery talent we see today. Underrated genre favourite Joaquim De Almeida gets a chance to play against his villain type as a sympathetic, affectionate man, and Brett Cullen is quietly devastating in a supporting role. This film wrestles with ideas of running from your past, fate and the forces of nature bringing people's paths together despite the ensuing tragedy. It's an intriguing, haunting, low key yet inwardly tumultuous piece.
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Ode to Jennifer Lawrence
drjlo19 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I did not even realize Mariana was Jennifer Lawrence until half way through The Burning Plain. She was younger with different hair color in this movie compared to her her most famous role in the Hunger Games franchise.

After all said and done, after watching The Burning Plain, the only truly lasting impression I have left is the hauntingly disturbing performance by Jennifer Lawrence when she was still in her teens. The movie itself generally was interesting in its use of time shifts and parallel story-telling, as well as the empathetic performance by Kim Basinger.

*Spoiler warning again*

There is a little too much of cookie-cutter resolution, e.g. Theron's predictable and unconvincing "shaping up" by the end. There is also just too much gap between the character played by Jennifer Lawrence and Theron; it doesn't convince as the same person. One could argue life has changed her, but the very core and essence of the person seem different. I am somewhat of a Theron fan especially with these unflattering movies she has been making, but I have become a bigger Lawrence fan after this movie, which is surprising since I thought I was impressed a lot by her turn in The Silver Linings Playbook. The Burning Plains shows off the potential of the actress, which can be seen to lead to wonderful performances like in Silver Linings.

However, having also seen Hunger Games: Mockingjay, which is one of the worst films I have seen, I truly hope Lawrence and her people see the wisdom of letting her develop her true talents and express herself more before being cast into those types of movies. Her X-Men roles really do not help much here, either.

Still, I would recommend people to watch Burning Plain, which "IS" a good movie, on a much higher plane than films like Mockingjay and X- Men anyway. I just wish its ending could have been more consonant with the ominous tone of the movie and that in the future the director does not feel the need to tie up all loose ends.
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Great Performances but...
Sherazade23 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
only from some of the cast. The film is not as cohesive as you'd expect from its marquee. On the page it looks likes the who is who of acting are about to tell a riveting tale, I mean we are talking Academy award winners Kim Basinger, Charlize Theron and Jennifer Lawrence (before she won hers of course) flanked by a slew of critically acclaimed supporting actors like Danny Pino, Joaquim de Almeida and Robin Tunney just to name a few. Yet somewhere along the way the story gets quite sluggish and some of the actors begin to look perplexed (especially Theron who is usually above the mark in all her roles) and/or disinterested. Perhaps the most harrowing performance you'll see here comes from Kim Basinger who plays the mother of Mariana (Lawrence & later Theron) and the way she in not so many words conveys the pain, anguish and discontent of her character Nina, a married mother of four who is trapped in a very routine and passionless marriage. Mariana (as played by Lawrence) appears in the flashback scenes in a supporting but very poignant role, her decisions help shape and provide a resolution for the movie.
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Soild but not transcendent
paul2001sw-13 July 2013
Guillermo Arriaga's film 'The Burning Plain' is a clever, multi-layered story of the intersecting lives of four female protagonists. It's well acted and filmed, and the background score is classy; but it's not quite great. Firstly, the device of telling each story in fragments, and not in chronological order, doesn't quite deliver the pay-off one might hope for: the final explanation is, perhaps, nothing other than what one might have expected. And secondly, perhaps its this very device which explains why the film isn't quite as emotionally involving as one might expect for a movie whose individual scenes are so well executed. I still enjoyed it, and it's a cut above most mainstream fare; but it never completely transcends its schema.
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Overly familiar and self-important melodrama
tieman6427 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
"The Burning Plain", directed and written by Guillermo Arriaga, follows the template of Arriaga's earlier screenplays ("21 Grams", "Babel"). Here we're treated to a non-linear, multi-strand narrative in which events unfold out of sequence. Unlike the films of Atom Egoyan, which analytically do the same thing, Arriaga's tone is melodramatic, sentimental, and overly impressed with its familiar soap opera elements.

The film contains a number of big-name actresses (Kim Basinger, Jennifer Lawrence, Charlize Theron), all of whom are stuck in a plot comprised of much adultery, affairs and secret rendezvous. Families are torn apart and new relationships come together, before the film ends on a note of tragedy. The film contains some excellent aerial footage, Arriaga's camera following New Mexican crop dusters.

6/10 – Worth one viewing.
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A Total Waste
David_Brown22 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This is a film with three Oscar winners (Basinger, Theron, and Lawrence), and none of them are any good (both in character (particularly Lawrence who abandoned her baby of two days), nor in acting). I could watch Basinger in anything and like it (except "Cool World"), because I am a fan of hers, and there is nothing boring about her, but here she is essentially lame. The only one who is worth watching is Tessa La (Maria), the daughter of Lawrence who grows up to be Theron (who seems to sleep around why every guy she meet to the point of being a nymphomaniac). What is pretty pathetic, is she is 12 and is the closest thing to be an adult (and this is not a kids film). Spoilers ahead: At the end of the film, she is the one who left Mexico to come to the US, and find her mom, after her dad had a crop dusting accident, and reunited the family. I give it two stars only for her.. Otherwise, it would be a total waste.
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Masterful storytelling
C.H Newell27 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I finally got a chance to watch The Burning Plain this afternoon, and was absolutely captivated. Everything from the script, to the cinematography, and certainly the performances within the film itself really dazzled me.

Gradually, the plot unfolds in front of us, as we watch several layers of a story. One layer involves two lovers who had an affair that ended up being killed in a trailer during a fire; we watch as the families deal with the repercussions of their deaths, and the reveal of their infidelity. Another layer involves the daughter of the woman who had the affair, and the son of the man involved with her, as they try to cope with their knowledge of the affair afterwards. The final layer involves a woman who goes from man to man seemingly, and doesn't seem to enjoy her life very much. All of these stories come together, but not before weaving around awhile. I thought I had an idea of what was going on, but there was one element I really had not anticipated, and when it happened (you'll know it when you see it yourself) I was absolutely shocked.

A great and often moving (in many ways) story about a torrid love affair, and the effects it has on the lives of everybody near it. I give this film a 10 out of 10. I really don't see how people can't enjoy it, and if they don't, well that's their opinion! However, the look of this film right down to the performances in it make this one you do not want to miss. A good performance for Jennifer Lawrence should be noted especially seeing as how she is now rising and rising in her fame; she played a great role. Kim Basinger and Charlize Theron also display some fine acting, too.
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Tragic event surrounding characters, with a hopeful, but sudden, ending
Tomas Maly17 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Similar to movies like Babel or 21 Grams, this movie is based around a tragic event, and the characters surrounding it.

The connectedness among the characters is something that is revealed slowly, though I will say it becomes apparent enough about 30 minutes in how Charlize Theron and Jennifer Lawrence are connected, primarily through a third (Mexican) character. You see several Mexican men (and boys), but watch for the guy with the big nose, and you'll start to piece it together. It's not until about the half way point that you start to realize how the Mexican girl plays into the whole thing.

I got the impression that the movie had a certain sad and depressing ending, but I felt like the tragedy/sadness was more of the climax than the ending. You see Charlize Theron's character behaving throughout the movie with a certain sense of self-loathing and thankfully the end of the movie shows the beginnings of change in her character for the better.

There is in fact two tragedies in this movie, and it's not until about 3/4 of the way through that you start to understand why the second one happened. Which is related to the first one, the burning trailer.

I feel that Kim Bassinger as a cheating mother and Jennifer Lawrence as the aware and yet bitter daughter, was a dynamic that both played very well. Faced with self-shame and loneliness, a mother of four finds romance in another man and as the story goes on, you start to see her carefulness slipping, as the daughter (Jennifer Lawrence) learns of the situation. She begins to express a certain coldness and yet self- inflicted pain/mutilation that is the product of learning to hate her own mother.

In the end, we are presented with the moral that we always have a choice to live with shame or live with love. The film has a certain sensation of epicness, in the sense of showing the human extremes of love, tragedy, hope, reconciliation, hatred, shock, etc, but I'm glad it ends on somewhat of a semi- positive note.

The only real gripe I have is the sudden ending that leaves the viewer on a certain emotional string. We are left with a certain feeling of hope, but the scene cuts out just as Charlize Theron's character decides to make a different choice (of not running away) - rather than showing what actually happens next because of that choice. The ending would have felt less ambiguous (though somewhat hopeful) and more uplifting. It could have lasted one more scene, with hugs and smiles and what not, and still kept the depth of humanness in the whole story, without being too cheezy.
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Slow burning and sombre..
Tim Kidner17 September 2012
What lies beneath our external persona and how we carry our past is an often an untapped, intriguing and even dangerous place to explore - and to return to.

So, as we see Charlize Theron, extremely unglamorous as she rises from yet another bed at another man's house, in Portland, Oregon, an air of sadness drifts over us. Yet, as debut director Guillermo Arriaga grapples with his own script - and he has written some corkers - Babel & 21 Grams - we are strangely hooked.

We want to see this woman and her life and how it connects with the rest of the film. As guarded restaurateur, Sylvia (Theron) we see that she's preoccupied and soon, she meets up with a figure from the past. From here - and inter-cut with the present, we visit her past life and how childhood events have shaped her. I won't reveal too much about this, except Kim Bassinger plays her mother, who has a torrid affair with Hispanic farmer Nick (Joaquim de Almeida - whom many will recognise but not be able to name!) near their New Mexico home.

This is typical independent cinema; often slow, raw and intense and generally, as attractive as real life is - not very. Acting is always compelling and almost uncomfortably real but just because a film ticks all the 'pure' boxes, it doesn't necessarily make for a good film, which needs to be entertaining AND interesting. The latter, generally, yes, the former, not often and somehow the length and story don't make for a film that's totally satisfying. The good cinematography helps, though, as does the sparse and atmospheric music.

Many will find the general pessimism of the film a little overbearing and this isn't Arriaga's best script; apparently the movie didn't do well at the box office and maybe the director will go on to produce a better film or write more great scripts for someone else to direct.
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Nice try, but some annoing elements
OJT15 September 2012
There's great stuff in this film by Guillermo Arriaga, which also was behind Amores perros, 21 Grams and Babel, which is all good. This is also very interesting, but maybe Arriaga here goes a bit lost in his own storytelling? It's possible to love the excitement and dramatics of loose cannons, but there's maybe a couple to many out here.

This film will be loved by many, others will be turned off by the edited storyline, the slow pace, the strange and often appalling behavior of otherwise neat people. This is also things which makes other interested. But this has been done better, without the bad behavior. It's real enough, the exaggerations makes it less believable. There's simply not that many insane people in a small place like this, doing the wrong and right things the way they are here.

Good acting, but still some annoying ways of behavior. Great scenery though bleak use of nature, a lingering excitement though not fulfillment, great ideas though purely executed. Though could have been amazing, like f.e. The Dead Girl, but is just a good try. A nice try in a everyday environment, but somehow it's difficult in accepting the way people act when in different situations. It all gets a bit to desperate.

It's not difficult to follow, though Arriaga has made his best in trying to confuse and lose the audience on the way. But I feel that the film is lost in a try to make this film more important, serious and real than necessary, and therefore loses some of its way. Love and life is difficult, and often messy, but the filmmaking hasn't got to enhance that. Kudos for good idea, but next time make someone see it over!
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Satisfying but not spectacular film
jameswilliams78411 September 2012
This is a strange movie. If your a fan of the Babel or other work by Guillermo Arriaga, then you will be satisfied with this movie. If your a fan of Charlise Theron then you be satisfied with this movie. If your looking for a gripping drama about how a tragedy affects the lives of different people you will be satisfied. However, if you looking for a good intense drama, this movie will leave you unsatisfied unless you can get over the very disjointed beginning and follow the movie to the end.

I think you have to be familiar with Arriaga's films to really like this movie. He weaves stories together without any thought of a time line and it can make a movie seem very strange. However, if you will follow this movie to the end, it is a good movie. The Acting especially by Theron is outstanding. Give this movie a chance and its enjoyable. Not a masterpiece, but enjoyable.
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drama in drama
cesetevi11 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
a very strong the beginning I think there's two separate story line.when Sylvia calls the lying man Santiago everything falls into its place.There is something I find not plausible.when Mariana lets pipe loose what does she think will happen? obviously it's gonna blow entire trailer.this aside, movie tells a woman's life who is gonna have to face his past which she tries to escape all her life.she kills her mother and her lover.she keeps this secret herself and tries to cope with this by sleeping every man she meets which is a way of hiding her guilt.she also tries to share this guilt by burning his hand with her mother's lover son.Just to make her history to present a sign of love.however it is in reality not a love, a guilt.she tries to hurt himself escaping being loved by a man.she can't bear this pain and leaves his baby with his father behind.she maybe treats her baby a product of this guilt.when she learns her daughter had a scar when she was 3 years old she later asks her forgiveness,feeling that guilt again.this movie is full of takes you from a woman's life who had breast cancer to another woman's life who had killed her own mother just to punish.Afterwards she tries to punish ends without a resolution.I wonder whether she's gonna tell him how she killed her own mother and his father? the father of her daughter? even her daughter?
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Another example of flashbacks being a tricky business...
banzanbon12 December 2011
Great cast! Everyone gives a zillion percent and there is some exceptional choice casting too, though the actors weren't used to their potential and their roles even came across as superfluous; but okay, I was just happy to see those specific actors.

Some of the characters are too much a caricature, especially the character played by Charlize Theron. She's such a cliché, I'm afraid to say. There's something 'prodigal' about Sylvia/Mariana, both as an adult and as a teenage girl.

The story builds nicely though slow; sometimes it's too slow and drags for no apparent reason. The problem is that there are bits and pieces of the storyline that are also left dangling. They tie up nicely on the one hand but then, you are left feeling that they will continue to be tools for the future insight of the characters but then they're not. So those arcs were like dangling participles in the narrative, as far as I was concerned.

This film though, as I mention in my tag line is a perfect example of how flashbacks (and dream sequences) are often a VERY tricky business in a film and if they're not properly shuffled into the sequences, it can make the film disjointed and cluttered. This film has those moments but because of all the rest of the things it has going for it (landscape, good actors and a partly interesting premise) it makes you want to give it a chance and wait out the fog to get to the cliffhanger.
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It's amazing how one thing can make all the difference
MBunge29 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This is a quiet, leisurely film about the tragedies that unite and divide two families over three generations in the American Southwest. It's the sort of deeply serious drama where the audience is told more through the actors' expressions and tone than through any bit of dialog. That also means The Burning Plain is the sort of movie that bores many people to tears. I am usually one of those viewers left weary and fatigued but not this time. Partly that's due to some non-liner storytelling that avoids pretension and trying too hard to be clever. Mostly it's because Charlize Theron gets buck naked.

Yes, I realize that's a fairly crude and crass reaction. It also happens to be true for me and, I would guess, it would also be true for other folks who normally can't stand this kind of tale. The beautiful Miss Theron is completely nude at the very beginning and then gets topless before the film is halfway over. The nudity being non-gratuitous, actually showing us something important about Theron's character each time, certainly elevates the experience. Regardless, if she hadn't taken it off, I probably would have spent most of this movie annoyed and waiting for it to end. By so immediately grabbing my attention and then doing it again, I was pulled into this very human conflict more effectively than a billion fancy words or a rainbow of histrionic performances every could. The whole point of telling a story is to engage the audience and it's not always necessary, wise or even appropriate to do that exclusively at the highest level.

It also helps that none of the characters in The Burning Plain are annoying or aggressively foisted on the viewer. Mostly in silence and sometimes in action, they're allowed to unspool on the screen with each scene taking you further and further into who and what they are. But it's mostly Theron taking her clothes off.

This motion picture jumps back and forth among three different time periods and three sets of characters. There's Gina (Kim Basinger), a desperately unhappy woman who slinks away from her husband and children to the arms of Nick (Joaquim De Almeida), a similarly adulterous husband and father who is consumed with unconditional passion for her. Things move ahead in time a bit to Gina's daughter Marianna (Jennifer Lawrence) and Nick's son Santiago (JD Pardo), who find their souls intertwined after violent death shatters both of their families. Many years after that, there's Sylvia (Charlize Theron), an emotionally wounded woman who self-medicates with joyless promiscuity and Maria (Tessa Ia), a young Mexican girl who sees her cropduster father crash in front of her eyes and is taken on a journey to find the mother she's never known.

Now, if you pay any attention at all, you'll quickly figure out how all these people fit together, where their lives are going and how they'll get there. Fortunately, experiencing the voyage is more important that arriving at the destination. The Burning Plain isn't about watching a plot unfold. It's about recognizing other human beings in moments of pain, joy, selfishness, nobility and fear. You hope these people get a happy ending the way you want one for yourself.

In addition to baring it all, and once again demonstrating the principle of Producer Self-Nudity, Theron is marvelous as a profoundly sad woman who deadens herself with sex and almost can't stand it when she must acknowledge her own feelings. Kim Basinger is equally wonderful as an equally sad woman who finds not anesthesia but liberation in her affair. Jennifer Lawrence and JD Pardo are also captivating as two teenagers whose unprocessed anger propels them forward when they don't have any idea what they're doing.

The Burning Plain isn't for those who want something quick and loud and distracting. If you're looking to ruminate for a while, this isn't a bad object to focus on. And that's not a reference to Theron's bosom.
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How Absurd is the Casting in this Movie?
gsandra6143 September 2011
Who in the world could picture either Charlize Theron or Kim Bassinger being involved with the scruffy-looking men they are cast opposite in this horrible film?

John Corbett as a cook? It's laughable.

This is the worst example of casting I've ever seen. Whatever possessed these acclaimed actors and actresses to get involved in this contrived soap opera?

Don't waste your time on this tripe. It's just awful to watch it. The plot and situations are stilted and forced. Kim Bassinger making love to a grizzled old guy in a single-wide squalid trailer? It's just unbelievable to think that this film was actually produced and released.
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Hidden agenda
sheep13-129 May 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The messy back-and-forth in time action is not the worst problem of this production. There is some intensity which could make this a not-too-bad movie anyway. The actors are not to blame either. On first impression the plot is about love, more or less.

But there is a hidden agenda here: both blond women (mom and daughter) are presented as whores. On top of that, the blond mother is also Christian, praying every evening. But of course a hypocrite, since she is committing adultery. The Christian white dad (who fathered 4 children) is actually an impotent male...

Enough, I'll never watch anything else made by this Arriaga guy.
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The writing is excellent
Leon Zap11 April 2011
I like the fact as other reviewers have written that "Kim Basinger's acting is flat". Any more exciting than what she did will spoil the somber almost stoic tone of the film. I think normal people cheating on their family will just act how she did it.

There is definitely a lot of skin here and sex scenes but it is really done to bring out emotion. Theron's Sylvia's apathy and guilt, Basinger's Gina's urgency and even more so Lawrence's Marianna's anger, guilt and true love.

The time/space chop is really effective and I did not think was overdone. I did not know initially that is what filmed in New Mexico until I recognized the familiar mountains around Las Cruces and the New Mexico "swamp" cooler air conditioning units.

Because of the constraints of the movie and budget, we are left with many questions about the back stories of the relationships with other characters.

All the actors are really great and I have to agree about Ia. Very talented. As expected the big awards institution did not even consider this. Their loss.

I have now more respect for Charlize Theron. She did carry more than half the film. It is a sad film but had a fulfilling resolution in the end.
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Broken Plains
Chrysanthepop10 April 2011
Films about interlocked fragmented stories aren't anything new to writer and director Guillermo Arriaga. As director, 'The Burning Plain' is his first feature film and its quite apparent that he has poured his heart into it. Here too the film involves three stories that are told separately but linked by the first scene.

However, the non-linearity of storytelling is initially confusing but once the tragic link is made apparent, the gut-wrenching conclusion (that explains the explosion shown in the first scene) hits the viewer hard. The setting is very simplistic but rich in atmosphere especially with the dark subtle undertones. The beautiful score contributes well.

Arriaga has gathered an impressive ensemble of actors who deliver wonderfully understated performances. Charlize Theron portrays Sylvia with a subtle intensity. Kim Basinger is skillfully restrained and Jennifer Lawrence shows tremendous potential. John Corbett, Robin Tunney, José María Yazpik, Rachel Ticotin, Brett Cullen, Tessa Ia and Joaquin de Almeida provide great support.

Despite the initial confusion, the narrative is strong. There are a few clichés that could have been avoided, such as the confession scene in the hospital, but these are very minor and don't effect the impact of the film. In the end, 'The Burning Plain' is a solid film.
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Very touching drama, deeply felt and supported by a good female cast
simona gianotti1 March 2011
I saw this movie for the first time on TV last night: it was one of those movies that do not let you go to sleep with a light heart. It's about a deep, lacerating human drama, involving more generations, narrated through continuous going back and forward. Not difficult to follow, however, since there's a kind of subtle, subterranean emotional line, uniting all characters, places, vicissitudes, as to make the viewer almost naturally and instinctively able to get in touch with the story. And the director chose to pass such an emotional impact in a gentle and unobtrusive way, with a sense of unreal quietness, pervading the whole movie, although hiding a sense of anguish. Evident it is that in such movies great responsibility is given to the cast: in "The burning plain", the whole cast, especially the female interpreters, deliver very good and intense performances. Charlize Theron gets to convey a kind of suffocated pain and unbearable sense of guilt in a superb way. Kim Basinger offers touching and sincere acting, but also the younger female cast show credibility and intensity in their difficult roles.
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A barely convincing debut from Guillermo Ariaga
barrys825 January 2011
The Burning Plain, a romantic mystery about a woman on the edge who takes an emotional journey back to the defining moment of her life. Written and directed by Guillermo Arriaga (Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel). It is a heart breaking, touching movie. It follows the formula of having a main story with various sub-stories that in the end their paths are crossed. The rhythm is a little slow, it continuously changes from story to story making it hard to follow and a little boring at some moments. The cast is good. Charliza Theron, Kim Basinger John Corbett, Robin Tunney, Jose Maria Yazpik, everyone delivering very convincing performances although some of them are a little overacted as well. In conclusion, If you've seen Babel or 21 Grams or Amores Perros, all of them written by Ariaga, then you know what to expect with The Burning Plain
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Mournful and yet seductive drama.
Michael O'Keefe23 December 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga makes his directorial debut with this sometimes disjointed drama piecing together a web of three love stories that interconnect. Charlize Theron plays a sex craving woman troubled by her past. Kim Basinger is cast as a depressed housewife that needs a torrid adulterous affair to seek completeness. Jennifer Lawrence and J.D. Prado are a couple of teens that enter a forbidden relationship in trying to mourn while trying to understand the horrific death of their parents. If you are already depressed...shy away. You must really devote your attention to this one; but if you get lost the finale will answer any questions. After seeing Miss Lawrence in POKER HOUSE and WINTER'S BONE, I just couldn't pass this film up. No disappointment from where I sit. This movie is not recommended for children. The supporting cast includes: Robin Tunney, Joaquim de Almeida, Jose Maria Yazpik, Tessa La, Danny Pino and John Corbett.
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