Argumentative married couple Greg Bruce and Zanna Gillespie review The Burnt Orange Heresy.
Number of Rolling Stones: 1
Number of confronting sex scenes: 1
Number of cinema-adjacent beaches: 1
I don't know if the good movies are being kept in a vault somewhere awaiting the New World Order but I haven't seen anything great lately and, unfortunately, The Burnt Orange Heresy is no different. I was surprised to learn Greg liked it because he generally dislikes everything, plus we saw it at the Berkeley Mission Bay and he has an irrational hatred of "going to the movies at the beach".
It's about an art critic who will stop at nothing to get his name hanging on a banner outside a premium gallery. At least I think that's what his motivation was – he was largely mysterious and lacking depth of character. As we walked back to the car, Greg said, "It needed another half an hour" and, while the movie didn't need to be any longer than it was, he was right that things were just starting to get interesting at the end. Essentially the film was all set-up for a far better movie that gets going after the final shot.
Mick Jagger's performance was quite delicious as a menacing art collector, however. He danced the line between being very good and very bad and I decided he was very good. Elizabeth Debicki was commendable in a confused role - I could make no sense of why she would willingly get involved with the art critic in the first place. She had supposedly taken a prolonged leave of absence from her job to have an abortion. Instead of taking a few sick days, she was disappeared to Italy in a cloak of shame like a 1950s teenager and ended up in the arms of the critic.
Early on there was a graphic sex scene that seemed inappropriate for the half-empty cinema of retirees on a Sunday afternoon. I appreciate a good sex scene as much as the next guy but it was gratuitous, adding very little to the story. Plus, Debicki is 29 and Claes Bang - who she was banging - is 53 and, until I see women in their 50s banging men in their 20s without comment on the age differential, I don't want to see scenes like this one either.
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Hats off to the locations scout though - there's some spectacular vista-porn as they drive through Italy and the estate where much of the film is set is ideal for something creepy and nefarious to happen. Unfortunately though, spectacular scenery and a stellar cast couldn't get me interested in this film. I would rather have been at the beach.
The movie's first sex scene was so confronting and the rest of the audience so old, I felt like I'd just walked in on my parents. It threw me off my game and I took a while to re-immerse myself in what turned out to be a moody and quite entertaining story driven by a series of character-driven mysteries, such as when is Mick Jagger going to appear and is he going to be any good?
Ultimately, though, the movie got lost up its own sense of worthiness and was not redeemed by its worn-out message that the art world is light on substance and heavy on bulls***. Jagger played a significant role as a wealthy art collector. He wasn't as bad as I'd assumed he'd be.
Basically, there's a bad guy at the movie's centre who will do anything for fame etc, etc. There are lies, murder, extreme wealth and so on. His character was accurately summed-up during one particularly tension-laden scene when a woman in the theatre whispered to her companion and everyone else in the theatre: "He's up to something."
Afterwards, I offered Zanna the thesis that the movie was a classic battle of good and evil. She did not agree with that, not one bit. I could see it in her eyes.
I said, of the male lead, "He's evil."
She said, "Is he?" By which she meant, "He's not."
I said, "He was pure evil; she was pure good."
She said, "That's very binary." By which she meant, "That's very wrong."
I said the female lead represented Jesus and the male lead represented the Devil. I admit this was probably a stretch.
She said, "It's so reductive and boring to say he's just evil." She was probably right but she could have been nicer about it.
She said she didn't really like the movie; she found it boring. She had several reasons for that and one of them was that she had no sympathy for the main guy because he had no redeeming qualities. She said: "There was no reason to think that he had any sort of conscience."
It was as if she was searching for another way to say, "He was evil." I didn't push her on it though. Some things are better left unsaid.