Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Review: The Burnt Orange Heresy

Release date: March 6, 2020
Running time: 99 minutes
Starring: Elizabeth Debicki, Claes Bang, Donald Sutherland, and Mick Jagger

In The Burnt Orange Heresy, art critic James (Bang) befriends a mysterious stranger Berenice (Debicki), at one of his art classes.  The two begin a fling, that quickly leads to James inviting her to spend some time at the house of Joseph Cassidy (Jagger), a rich art dealer that has asked James to meet with him.  However, James soon learns that an elusive painter is also residing on the property, and that Joe's invitation might have come with an ulterior motive. 

I really wanted to like this movie.  The trailer makes this seem like a great caper involving a clever critic and a grand scheme.  And this movie starts off very well.  The performances are all wonderful, with Claes Bang and Donald Sutherland being especially enjoyable.  Bang is wonderful at the start as a smooth talking art critic who is a little too good at his job and a little too full of himself.  The opening sequence is a really enjoyable piece of storytelling and sets the stage for what should have been a really good film.  Debicki also does a great job as an elusive tourist who is simultaneously genuine with those she meets while keeping some part of her hidden.  And Sutherland as the elusive artist is wonderful; he wanes lyrically often and has a fantastic persona that is infectious to watch.  And the writing is very good with a lot of interesting and engaging dialog between the various characters.

However, this film is ultimately derailed by its story.  The movie takes a very long time to get to the main dilemma, and then goes off the rails towards the end.  I am fine with movies that change genres partway through or that have sudden turns, but this one spiraled down pretty quickly and ridiculously.  There is an insane twist that occurs before the final third, that changes the tenor of the entire film.  And this leads to an unfulfilling ending for a film that could have been so much more.  To the film's credit, the ending still leaves some questions remaining, which seems to be fitting with the overall tone of it.  But it really feels like the filmmakers had a darker vision for this movie and just tried to cram it all in at the end.  

The Burnt Orange Heresy paints an interesting picture, with fantastic performances and some very good writing, but the overall experience is hurt by a story that goes off the rails.  

Rent It

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