Sunday, February 21, 2010
The Burning Plain
Yesterday I saw a movie that really stuck with me: The Burning Plain. The preview kind of locked me, even though it seemed like it belonged on Lifetime Movie Network, but it still looked poignant and deep enough to be somewhat enjoyable.
Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger drew me to it too. They tend to make decent decisions in selecting movies to star in. And this one wasn't bad. In fact, it's still resonating in the back of my mind, showing me that the message is a good one, that the writing is really effective, that the story was pretty interesting.
What I really liked about this film was the way the story was pieced together. Nothing was in any sort of chronological order. You had to constantly piece together who was who, what this plot had to do with this plot, how this murder happened, etc. The writing gave enough clues for it to still be interesting yet you still had to continuously discover and identify plot points and characters. That is interesting writing. That is smart writing. That is hard writing to do.
The story itself was interesting, yet kind of sullen and depressing at the same time. All in all, when it's told in chronological order, it's about a teenage girl who discovers that her mother is cheating on her father with a Latino man. (They live somewhere in Arizona or New Mexico). They get together in an abanadoned trailer in the middle of nowhere and build a small life together out of their true love. Well, this teenger named Mariana gets really mad one day and follows them there. Only meaning to scare them out of the trailer, she lights it on fire. However, the gas leaks and blows up the trailer, killing them both. She did not mean to do this, but is now scarred forever.
Mariana is somewhat stalked by the cheating father's son, Santiago, and they soon become close friends as they try to figure out their cheating parents' affair. Soon, they fall in love and start making love. Their families find out and get really mad. Mariana finds out that she is pregnant. They run away to Mexico where she has the baby and abandons the family.
This plot then cuts to the future where Mariana has run away (Charlize Theron) and works at a fancy restaurant. She sleeps with any man she sees. She feels so much regret for her life and feels nothing. She has no respect for herself really; she probably doesn't even feel like she deserves to live. With a role model of a cheating mother (one that she destroyed) she then turns to promiscuous sex herself, perhaps trying to hold onto what she has left of her mother.
Santiago, in the future, gets into a plane crash. He asks his brother and daughter Maria to find Mariana and bring her to them. Santiago will survive but with bad injuries. This brings the family back together after some intense struggle, and the plot ends before we get the satisfaction of seeing the family together once again.
Santiago was a great single parent who always seemed to be waiting for Mariana to come back. That is his true love, and he was a good soul who was stuck in a bad situation.
Overall, it was a very smart film. I really enjoyed it. Of course, all of that was pieced together in fragments which made it more interesting.
The acting was really good too. Therone and Basinger played really damaged and confused women. I bought it. They put on two very powerful performances.
It brings up many questions: What is true love? What do we do with such heavy guilt when we can never take back what we have done? What do you do when you cannot share something so painful that you have done? What if you aren't ready to change or to grow up? What if you don't have a parent to identify with or their characteristics are so terrible that you don't know who YOU are or who to be? What do you do if you know your parent is cheating? What if you have so much pain that you just don't know how to live?
Even though those are heavy and harsh topics, they are interestingly splayed in this film. It is an emotional film, but it's worth the watch.
So what do you think of The Burning Plain?