Charlize Theron plays another damaged woman running from her past in the modest indie The Burning Plain. It doesn't really take any longer to figure out what she's running from than say Sleepwalking, but the film's interwoven storylines and tricks with time (some events happen in the past) make it an intriguing outing for Theron, Kim Basinger and John Corbett.
Theron plays the manager of a high-end, seaside restaurant, a woman with some pretty serious sexual hangups. She avoids close contact, but submits willingly to casual pick-ups, the rougher the better. Corbett, of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, plays a cook who is either trying to figure out why he can't get close to her or simply stalking her.
And in New Mexico (hello, filmmaking incentives) the tragic end to an affair between Kim Basinger and Joaquim de Almeida (quite uncharismatic here) plays out in pretty much reverse order. Somehow, events there connect to the troubled restaurant manager in the Pacific Northwest.
This film written and directed by the screenwriter of Babel, 21 Grams and Amores Perros has all the trickery and none of the heart of those earlier films. So Guillermo Arriaga can stop griping about how little credit he got for his efforts. He writes marvelously intricate scripts, but it takes a good director to make those scenarios sing.
Screening at: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 28, Regal; 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 1, Regal.
The Burning Plain: 3 of 5 stars
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