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The Burning Plain
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The Burning Plain More at IMDbPro »

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Sweeping desert landscapes perfectly compliment this story of pain, desperation, acceptance and loss.

9/10
Author: varinaplan-813-450258 from Australia
9 August 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

For the first 45 minutes or so I hated this movie. My head spun. Who was this whoreish, depressed, desperate, self mutilating character that Charlize Theron played? What was her motive for such self destructive behavior? I was not quite sure if she was a prostitute, or just offering her body to any man that came along, to fill some gaping void in her lifeless soul. Her eyes seemed dead, she seemed so achingly lonely, but most of all she just seemed empty.

Then I winced at the seemingly unrelated story of the Mexicans in the American Southwest surveying some burnt out trailer in the desert and that awkward desperate love scene between Basinger and the Mexican guy.

Even though I am a white women married to a Mexican, I know first hand how huge the cultural divide is between Mexican men and pretty, white women in the United States, so I found this unlikely affair between the two to be quite unrealistic. Basinger , still attractive, but barely, struck me more as some middle aged, stretched, botoxed high maintenance L.A type, who in reality would not cavort around with a 'wetback', as most Americans refer to Mexicans living in America as. Her role as a desert dwelling desperado looking for some nooky with a poor, Mexican farmer is almost hilarious ( I lived in California for many years, and I know how unlikely this scenario is)

WAIT!!-ahhhhhhhh, now I get it, the story starts coming together. It is just director, Gullermo Arriagas unique spin on storytelling. Maybe he was trying to be a little too arty, but somehow it manages to work, and maybe even better than if it had been done in a more linear fashion.More impact with his highly stylized film making, which seems to work, but is not for everyone.The full impact of this film did not hit me until the morning after, like a bad hangover it plagued me. It's heavy subject matter had definitely stirred me, and I even felt overwhelmingly emotional playing the scenes over in my head.

I guess everything came together, and became more realistic for me when Kim Basinger ( Gina) is rejected sexually by her Husband because she has had a double mastectomy. AHHHHHHHH, now I know why she seeks out her Latin lover who is not repulsed by her amputated breasts! Like most Mexican men he is perfectly accepting of her flaws, and still finds her beautiful and desirable. She is overwhelmed by his acceptance and insatiable lust for her, despite her terribly scarred chest. Now this movie begins to wash over me and envelop me in it's power, I go from hate to love!!

The acting is really superb in this movie. As usual, Charlize Theron ( Sylvia) defies stereotype and digs her acting chops into something unorthodox. I have nothing but respect for this pretty lady, who has shunned the usual Hollywood fluff and manages to make the audience believe time and time again that she is a white trash gal from the wrong side of the tracks, full of pain and running from her demons. It is not easy to be that gorgeous and convince the audience, but once again Charlize pulls off another tortured soul admirably.

Jennifer Lawrence, who plays the daughter of Kim Basinger is a talent to watch out for. Her level of maturity and subtle sexuality is rare and unique amongst young Hollywood actresses, and like Charlize, chose to go the gritty route, for which she will be rewarded. Check her out in' The Poker House', and be blown away, she is a hell of a young actress. The relationship with her Mothers lovers son is sensuous and moving , with none of that tired old teen angst that is often portrayed with young lovers on screen. Their relationship honors the memory of their parents special love and passion beautifully.

This movie is not for a lot of people. It is dark, and many will find the ending unsatisfying. There are no happy endings in this film. The sweeping emptiness of the New Mexico desert is a perfect backdrop for all the characters pain, loss, angst and desperation. The Harshness of the landscape lends itself to the cruelness of the story.

If you are a true movie buff you should love this movie. You may need to take a cold shower afterwards, but 'The Burning Plain' will linger , and possibly be seared in your memory for a long time.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Good Story

7/10
Author: (bob-rutzel-1) from United States
19 July 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Burning Plain (2009) Charlize Theron, Kim Basinger, J.D. Prado, Jennifer Lawrence

Good Story

This is a two-tiered story. You see the present as Sylvia (Theron) and the past as Mariana (still Sylvia, but known as Mariana). Sylvia is rocked by a confrontation with her past.

This is not as confusing as it seems. Until you catch on this is presented as though all is in the present, but it's not. Almost like a time space continuum, isn't it? The present is when Sylvia has decisions to make as she is shocked when reminded of her time long ago when she was Mariana. I know you will get it. Took me a while too.

Good story, but a little too much almost graphic sex. We get it and don't need to see and hear all of it. Get it?

Good story but the two people we really didn't care about was married Gina (Basinger) and her new lover. Something was missing with these two. Yes, we kept hoping they would get caught.

Good story and the two we did care about was Carlos (Prado) and Mariana (the young Sylvia, remember?). Their chemistry was gold.

Good story and it all hinged on Theron (Sylvia and the young Mariana but played by Jennifer Lawrence) who continues to impress with an Oscar worthy performance.

Violence: Yes. Sex: Yes. Nudity: Yes. Language: Yes.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Deeply Shaded and Dynamic

10/10
Author: Mari McAvenia from United States
7 June 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Just saw this memorable piece at the Newport International Film Festival. It is a beautifully framed, exquisitely visual movie featuring remarkable, ground-breaking performances by Theron, Bassinger, Lawrence and ALL of the male actors.

No clichés attached to "The Burning Plain". The best and most interesting multi-generational family story I have witnessed on screen since Atom Egoyan's "The Sweet Hereafter" was released in the mid-nineties.

Ang Lee, move over. We now have another novel artist's eye for familial complexity, Norte Americano style - with all the attendant tears, sweat and LOVE- in Guillermo Arriaga, the masterful director of "The Burning Plain".

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3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

A barely convincing debut from Guillermo Ariaga

7/10
Author: barrys82 from Mexico
5 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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4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

How Absurd is the Casting in this Movie?

Author: gsandra614 from United States
3 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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14 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

Interesting story but technically incoherent

6/10
Author: yuwei-lin from Kaohsiung, Taiwan
16 April 2009

The pace of the film (probably due to poor editing) is inconsistent. The first half of the film is engrossing, but the second half can be easily predicted. A lot of scenes of the second half can be edited out. Apart from the poor editing, the story itself and the way the story was told are intriguing. The film is women centric and portrays many issues concerning women: breast cancer, housework/chores, mother-daughter relationship, postnatal depression etc.. Charlize Theron suits the leading role particularly after her outstanding performance in the film Monster. But there again exists inconsistency of her appearance in the film (probably due to make-up/lighting filming) - sometimes she appears younger and sometimes older. It's understandable as the director's debut, but I think the director needs to work harder in order to coherently deliver an engaging and technically sound film.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

The writing is excellent

9/10
Author: Leon Zap from United States
11 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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1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Sluggishly paced & listless - the ensemble cast makes the most of this non-linear melodrama

7/10
Author: george.schmidt (gpschmidt67@gmail.com) from fairview, nj
16 February 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

THE BURNING PLAIN (2009)** Charlize Theron, Kim Basinger, Jennifer Lawerence, Jose Maria Yazpik, Joaquim de Almeida, Tessa la, Diego J. Torres, JD Pardo, Danny Pino, John Corbett, Brett Cullen, Rachel Ticotin, Robin Tunney. Non-linear sluggishly paced melodrama about two families torn apart by infidelities over the years that lead to some secrets & lies brought forth with repercussions lurking beneath the surface of this at-times frustrating film that wants to have its cake and eat it too. Written and directed (his debut) by Gullermo Arriaga the film tilts and turns with some fine ensemble acting but ultimately the viewer tires of the back-and-forth (literally).

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2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Unexpectedly sad, strong stuff, well-done

8/10
Author: birck from Philly
24 July 2009

I knew nothing about this film before I saw it. With one important exception, the main events in it are all emotional events, the kind that can kill a person from the inside out. It may seem hard to follow, partly because the dialogue was a bit murky in the venue where I saw it, and large patches of spoken Spanish were left un-subtitled. The story starts to break open at about 2/3 of the way through, and if you haven't figured it out before that, the clarity is devastating. One sneaky trick the director, art director, et al., play on the audience is: there are two apparently separate stories going on simultaneously in this film. They eventually come together, but only after having been kept apart *artificially* before that point-no cues at all as to what the connection is, until it's presented to us. In retrospect, the story is complete and convincing, and I don't begrudge the film that artifice. It's a sad film, in the end, but the characters are well-drawn, and I'd rather watch it again, right now, than watch The Dark Knight or Transformers.

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2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

As Astonishing, Moving, and Brilliant Film

10/10
Author: robert-temple-1 from United Kingdom
31 October 2009

This is the film where Charlize Theron shows what she can really do, and her performance is one of the finest cinematic achievements by an actress in years. It was clearly not just acting. There can be no doubt that she had every reason from her own life to feel passionately about the subject of parents, their passions, and their fate. The final shot of her at the end of the film shows more expression than any actress has had in her face for a very long time, and is immensely moving. It was all the more impressive in these days when actresses tend to have frozen faces because of all their facial surgery. After all, who else is there now who can get so many twitches in her forehead? Theron's eyes are haunted at the best of times, and she looks like a beautiful staring ghost even when she is in repose. But when she is conveying overwhelming emotions of guilt, regret, hope, love, despair, and desperate need all at once, her eyes glow with an eerie phosphorescence, and her face is transformed into a mixture of a scared little girl and a disembodied spirit who might at any moment start tapping on walls or streaking down a hallway in a white nightdress whilst wailing pitifully. There can be little doubt that Theron is tormented by inner demons, and when she lets them show, watch out. That's when the eyes glow green in the dark. It is so remarkable that this actress's first language is not even English but Afrikaans, as you would never know it for an instant. One reason she looks so unusual is that she is half German and half French, and first came to America when already grown, so that she does not have an American face, rather more of an extraterrestrial one, hence good for all countries. This film is primarily a tour de force by three separate actresses, each nearly as emotionally powerful as the other. Kim Basinger is astonishing in her bleak loneliness and desperation, her heartbreak, her insecurity as a result of her breast surgery for cancer, and her burning love for a handsome Mexican man (the charming and smiling Joaquim de Almeida, who should act at the Almeida Theatre in London sometime, as they seem so made for each other). Basinger conveys so much in so few words, and is a master of her craft. The biggest surprise of the film is the performance by Jennifer Lawrence (of Louisville, Kentucky, believe it or not, and I wonder if she knows my cousin Mary Lou), who plays Theron as a teenager in the flashback portions of this complex web of a story. Rarely has a girl so young so successfully portrayed an intensely disturbed and resolutely vengeful daughter with such heart-stopping success. It is a pity that she mumbled a lot of her lines, like Dakota Fanning does, because if she could learn to articulate everything she says properly so that we can hear and understand her, there would be no holding her back from a magnificent career. These young girls should take some speech lessons and learn to speak clearly like the older actresses do. After all, we can understand everything Theron says, and she comes from South Africa and speaks a weirdo pseudo-Dutch language with words in it which no one can even pronounce and which has many very harsh sounds to it which would rasp a normal person's throat in an hour and render him or her hoarse. If Theron can speak English properly, why can't Lawrence? Anyway, Lawrence certainly deserved her award for her role at the Venice Film Festival, and let's hope she also got a ride in a gondola, as Kentucky is such a land-locked state that the nearest gondola is at the Venetian in Las Vegas. This multiple and multi-layered tragedy of the two women, Basinger being the mother of Theron/Lawrence, is devastating emotionally. The script is by a master, Guillermo Arriaga, who also directs the film with his unique brand of genius. (The last person named Arriaga who was famous was the 'Spanish Mozart', composer of some of the world's most beautiful string quartets, who died aged only 21. I recommend the recording by the Chilingirian Quartet as the best one.) This story is a real gut-wringer. Be strong, be very very strong. But there is no bloody violence, no guns, no criminals, no drug dealers, no soldiers, no police. Debra Zane gets the gold star for inspired casting in this one, and so many of the Hispanic performances are wonderful that I only wish I could cope with their names and identities. Brett Lunn is marvellous as Basinger's husband. This is a 'people film', not a 'bang bang film'. There is one gas explosion, but all the other explosions are inside the hearts of the sufferers in this tormented tale. You could not find a better example of film-making from the year 2008 anywhere.

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